Call to increase funding for community transport


Funding should be available to help community transport providers buy new and replacement vehicles. This is the key conclusion of the Scottish Parliament Infrastructure and Capital Investment Committee’s report into community transport published today.

The Committee has been examining the problems community transport users and providers in Scotland face and also identifying examples of where services are working well. More than 80% of people who use community transport are elderly and/or people with disabilities, who find it difficult to access public transport.

Committee Convener Maureen Watt MSP explained:

“Our Committee is calling on the Scottish Government to consider the best way to assist Community Transport, particularly by making funding available help replace community transport vehicles at the right time. We have asked for a full assessment of the likely costs so that a funding source can be identified, along with the development of practical proposals around how this could be managed and accessed.  

“Vehicle purchase has been highlighted as the principal concern of operators. Many of our witnesses told us how they used their vehicles well beyond their ‘shelf life’, and told us of the resulting problems of reliability, safety and comfort. The difficulty associated with sourcing funding to replace these older vehicles is a major obstacle for community transport providers.

Today’s report highlights the key issues identified in evidence as impacting upon the provision and operation of community transport in Scotland. Additionally, the Committee highlighted difficulties relating to the high costs of training for volunteer drivers, a need for joint working and a lack of information on the nature of current community transport provision,  in order  obtain a complete picture of community transport needs across Scotland.

It calls on the Scottish Government to expand the role and funding of the Community Transport Association (CTA) Scotland so that it can take on the role of providing practical support and advice to local organisations.

Maureen Watt MSP continued:

“Community transport services typically grow in response to local demand and need. This organic nature is vital to their success. It is essential that the services remain managed at a local level to reflect the wide variation in needs and challenges which exist in different communities.

“The Committee agrees that these local lifeline services deserve support. Our practical suggestion of expanding CTA Scotland’s remit to increase its support functions around providing funding advice and best practice information on service quality and governance issues will help free up the time of the organisations delivering these vital local transport connections. We hope it would allow them to focus on their service provision to some of the most vulnerable in our society, and reduce the time spent chasing funds, organising repairs or sorting out staff training.”

The Committee intends to identify a suitable opportunity to engage with stakeholders on the recommendations contained within this report, prior to a Parliamentary debate on its findings.

Further information on report findings

The report details specific ways in which the Scottish Government and the sector can work together to practically deliver best practice including:


The Committee recognises that there is no easy or immediate solution to the inequity of transport provision for those who cannot access public transport in remote and rural areas, and this inequity is further compounded for those who cannot access free travel. The Committee recommends that the Scottish Government explores ways in which to address the issue of inequity in the context of community transport provision, and how this might be most appropriately addressed.

The Committee was made aware that the short term funding provided by local authorities can have a significant bearing upon a community transport organisation’s ability to plan for the longer term and to retain paid staff. The Committee believes that the risk associated with staff attrition is significant. The loss of staff means a loss of sectorial knowledge and expertise, loss of time spend recruiting and training a suitable replacement, and the impact that understaffing can have upon - -organisations and on-going projects.

Driver training

The Committee was informed that for community transport organisations one of the most pressing challenges they face are the costs of training minibus drivers. This is as a result of changes to European legislation around driver training, specifically D1 licencing and the fact that since January 2007, minibus drivers must now obtain a D1 licence if they are to be able to drive a minibus which can cost around £1000.
The Committee recommends that training coordination be looked at in the context of developing a wider means of support for community transport in Scotland and that, where appropriate, larger community transport organisations should be encouraged and supported in providing training for smaller organisations.

Joint working

The Committee was made aware over the course of the inquiry that there is, in general, a lack of joint working between agencies responsible for the provision of transport in Scotland; local authorities, partnership agencies, health boards and the third sector. This results in, for example, duplication and also under-utilisation of provision and resources.

Although the Committee has heard good examples of joint working, the situation across Scotland is highly variable. The issue is further complicated by a lack of firm information about community transport in terms of its role and value in the provision of transport, and in meeting local shared outcomes.

The Committee recommends that local authorities consider the value of engaging with partnership agencies and third sector groups in their area to establish what resources might be available for shared use, and how these groups can work together to meet local shared outcomes.

Information sharing

The Committee considers it essential that the management and delivery of community transport services remains at a local level to meet specific local needs and challenges and in the Committee’s view there should be no attempt to alter or undermine this approach.

However, the Committee also acknowledges the wide variation in levels of capacity, knowledge and experience in the sector. Some larger organisations or those with experienced staff find it easier to overcome financial barriers and other challenges to effective and sustainable service provision, whilst smaller and newer operators can have significant difficulty in doing so. 

The Committee calls for the development of a central resource from which advice can be coordinated and provided in a consistent manner on such matters as:

  • setting up and managing a community transport service;
  • accessing funding sources;
  • staff training; and
  • development and the application of relevant safety standards.

The Committee believes that such a resource could help to reduce the need for operators with limited staff resources to carry out time consuming searches for advice and information. It could provide examples of good practice, contacts with experienced operators elsewhere in the sector and advice on accessing or bidding for funds.
Given the evidence that CTA Scotland is a respected organisation with a high level of expertise and knowledge of the specific and wide-ranging needs of the sector in Scotland, and is already viewed as a source of reliable and accurate advice and support throughout the sector, the Committee calls on the Scottish Government to work with CTA Scotland and other stakeholders to draw up detailed proposals for the development of shared standards and guidelines for quality and governance of the community transport sector, together with the provision of associated support and advice services.  The Committee also calls on the Scottish Government to review the funding level for the CTA Scotland to ensure that this is appropriate to its expanded role.

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