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Community transport sector upbeat despite economic gloom
Despite funding cuts and gloomy predictions of the future, many in the community transport sector are optimistic – and the sector has grown over the past year.
These were the key messages to emerge from the Community Transport Association’s England Policy Conference held on 2 November in London.
Speaking at the event, minister for civil society, Nick Hurd, said: “This is a difficult time, but I’m encouraged by how well your sector is responding in terms of thinking about doing things differently. Tremendous amounts of innovation are emerging.”
Keith Halstead, chief executive of the Community Transport Association (CTA), said: “In the face of today’s tough challenges community transport organisations are exploring new ways of providing more services to more people.
"This was demonstrated in our recent State of the Sector Report for England 2012 which provides evidence of the continued growth of our sector as well as highlighting how community transport is helping those people who don’t have access to mainstream public transport every day, right across the country.”
Mr Hurd outlined some of the actions that the government is taking to support civil society, including the recent Public Services (Social Value) Act which will place a new duty upon public service commissioners to consider social value when awarding contracts.
Community transport organisations is one of the sectors of civil society that has a particularly long history of working closely with local authorities, and many organisations are now working hard to strengthen these links as local authority funding becomes tighter.
Conference delegates heard from community transport organisations that are being supported by the CTA to develop collective working and become more enterprising, acting as beacons of best practice for the rest of the sector.
Mr Halstead added: “One of the key messages that I took away from our conference was that government stimuli such as the Public Services (Social Value) Act and the moves towards local control of local services could be a catalyst for enormous change in how civil society operates.
“The community transport sector is already exploring new approaches to getting people out and about – whether they are vulnerable elderly and disabled people who cannot use mainstream public transport, or people who live in remote areas that aren’t served by commercial bus operators. Our members are optimistic about the future, and ready to grab each opportunity that comes our way.”
One of the other speakers at the CTA England Policy Conference was RSA chief Matthew Taylor. Read his blog on the event here.
Julie Pybus is editor of CTA Journal, the Community Transport Association's quarterly magazine