Future of public transport in the county debated

Northamptonshire County Council's Cabinet is discussing the future of public transport next week
Northamptonshire County Council's Cabinet is discussing the future of public transport next week

The future provision of public transport in the county is the subject of a report to be heard by Northamptonshire County Council’s cabinet next week.

The report recommends giving the go-ahead for exploring a social enterprise to deliver transport services in Northamptonshire as a joint venture between the county council, The University of Northampton and potentially other organisations.

The county council currently has a budget of about £24m to deliver transport services, including those for home to school travel, special educational needs, adult social care and the concessionary fares scheme.

In addition, the service also provides demand responsive transport, such as County Connect, and supports some bus networks through subsidies.

However the service faces increased pressures, principally financial, which will be exacerbated by a projected sharp increase in population in the county over the next few years.

An efficient and proficient transport system is also seen as desirable in creating conditions for economic growth and also supports what is known as the council’s personalisation agenda, a strategy which enables people to lead more independent lives.

Working together and pooling resources with partner organisations, which would also see benefit in an improved public transport system, is seen as the way forward with regard to gaining financial efficiencies.

Profits would be reinvested back into the community, supporting the council’s objective of assisting economic prosperity.

Cllr Michael Clarke, county council cabinet member for transport, highways and environment, said: “In Northamptonshire we have the double pressures of reduced finances and increased population growth, so in order to continue to deliver a transport system we need to completely review the way we do things.

“Working together with other organisations which have the same ambition means that we can explore how we can develop a more efficient system, which is more appropriate for our county today.

“This is an exciting opportunity to work with partners in a collaborative way.”

If cabinet approve the report a voluntary partnership agreement will be created between the county council, The University of Northampton and other partners.

A full business case will then be prepared before a further report is heard before cabinet, scheduled for June 2015.

It is anticipated that creating a social innovation model will provide an overall financial benefit to the county council of at least £1m from the financial year 2016/17, with the full business case providing more detailed financial projections.