Council finds route for future of community buses

Two community bus services that were under review are set to continue after the council sought the views of people who use the buses and the wider community.

Inside a bus

A partnership between the council and local charity, Communities 1st, could see the two services continue to operate - the Shopper Hopper providing elderly and vulnerable people with trips to local supermarkets, and a separate regular bus to the Jimmy Macs Lunch Club in Hatfield -

A recommendation in a report going to the council's Cabinet on 6 December would see some buses from the Council's existing fleet transferred to Communities 1st to support the delivery of the service initially, with replacement buses to be provided by Communities 1st at a later date.

The service would operate the same as the existing service; Tuesday to Friday, with bus fares frozen until 1 April 2024. They would then increase by £1 per return journey every year from 1 April 2024, up to the maximum fee of £6 per return journey.

The partnership with Communities 1st would also enable the following initiatives to offer a more comprehensive service to the borough's elderly and vulnerable communities:

  •  Access to an established volunteer pool of 'bus buddies' to support shopping in store, fetching items, carrying bags and providing additional support for users with boarding on/off bus
  • Additional access to volunteer support services such as the local community car scheme and volunteers within this district to support 'bring your shopping to you' service, funded by the county council
  • Offer of organised coach trips and day trips, including private hire of transport for local community groups and charities.

Cllr Fiona Thomson, Executive Member for Housing, said:

When we talked to service users it was clear that some people would stop using these important services if our initial proposal went ahead due to the increased costs. We recognise that this service supports users' independence and is valued by those and the families of those that use it.  We also know that isolation can lead to physical and mental challenges for people and there is a wider benefit to making sure these services can continue to operate.

Read the Cabinet papers and agenda.