Agenda item

Community Car Schemes Review (Agenda Item 6)

Review of issues relating to community car schemes in Breckland.  A report from the Director for Community Services is attached.  Witnesses have been invited to assist the review.


Mr. Antony Needham, Clerk to Dereham Town Council, and Mr. David Shannon, Chairman of Bawdeswell Parish Council and representing Bawdeswell Community Car Scheme, were in attendance by invitation for this item.


The Director for Community Services presented the report, which advised Members on the operation of the Breckland Community Car Scheme and implementation of the new governance arrangements for the scheme, which had been approved by the Council in September 2008.


Bawdeswell Parish Council had successfully introduced a scheme under the new governance arrangements.


Dereham Town Council had been approached to introduce a scheme under the new governance arrangements as it had one of the largest and most popular schemes existing in the District.  However, the Town Council had expressed concern that the new agreement represented a significant change in the relationship between Breckland and scheme co-ordinators.


Mr. Shannon spoke on the experience of the operation of the new Bawdeswell scheme.  The assistance given by Breckland and the Ward Member, Mr. Bambridge, in helping the parish to set up the scheme had been invaluable.  While the scheme contract was between Breckland and Bawdeswell Parish Council, its use was offered to the neighbouring parishes of Bylaugh and Foxley on a cost-sharing basis.  It was felt this had the added benefit of fostering community relations.  Figures on use of the scheme were given and operational running costs of the scheme were put at £110, giving an approximate annual cost to Breckland of £250.  The experience at Bawdeswell highlighted the need to allow time for new schemes to bed-in before seeking to assess their value for money.  In the case of Bawdeswell, the scheme was felt to offer good value and savings to local, vulnerable residents.


Mr. Needham explained the Dereham Town Council’s views in the matter.  The Dereham scheme was an excellent one and one of the best and biggest in the country.  The Town Council also had no concerns with the introduction of the various checks, which were acknowledged to be necessary for good governance.


The main issue of concern for the Town Council was that of the liability attaching to the scheme for town and parish councils; whilst this was reasonable for larger scheme operators such as Dereham, it was felt it could place a somewhat onerous burden on smaller parishes.


In response, the Head of Legal Services explained that the new contract clearly set out the various obligations on the parties, as was proper in any contract or agreement.   The decision by Breckland Council to continue the scheme with the new governance arrangements was clearly made on the basis that in funding the scheme, the Council would not be liable for statutory and other liabilities under the scheme agreements.


The importance and value of the community car schemes were endorsed by members.  Their preservation and enhancement was felt to be essential and the success of the Bawdeswell scheme should be an encouragement to other parishes to establish their own schemes.  It was also felt important that the schemes adhere to the condition that they be used for medical related journeys only.  Breckland would be a poorer district without such schemes.


In answer to a question, it was noted that the Bawdeswell scheme was the first to be established under the new arrangements but presentations to other parishes were planned.


The Director of Community Services explained that the level of support offered to Bawdeswell was consistent with that offered to others and in the first stage of transition to the new arrangement, there would be an officer resource to support its implementation.


A member questioned the style of wording used in the form of agreement as being somewhat off-putting but it was explained that this was the nature of legal agreements, which needed to be clear and specific.


The Chairman made the point that the Council decision in September 2008 had been unanimous and the decision had been taken in full knowledge of the risk of potential rejection of the individual scheme operators in taking on the responsibilities under the new governance arrangements, which could potentially lead to the closure of some of the car schemes.


In conclusion, the Commission confirmed its continued support for the community car scheme and the officer resource required to assist scheme operators through the transition period to the new arrangements.

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