Cuts to adult social care transport service considered by Calderdale Council's bosses

Cabinet member for Communities and Neighbourhood Services, Coun Susan Press
Cabinet member for Communities and Neighbourhood Services, Coun Susan Press

Use of technology, stopping its internal courier service and reducing spending on private hire vehicles are all methods which will be used to put a brake on council spending on transport – but more savings will still have to be found.

Calderdale Council’s Transport Services department only has a budget of around £3 million a year but is earmarked to save almost £1 million.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet heard the service had been problematic in financial terms for some time but it had already made around half of the necessary savings going forward.

However, with savings identified looking set to save £79,000 in 2019-20 and £112,000 in 2020-21 against savings targets of £381,000 and £348,000 respectively still to be met, other savings options will have to be explored.

These could include streamlining the council’s fleet of vehicles used to transport adult social care clients with learning disabilities – or even not providing the non-statutory service at all.

But a member of the public warned members some areas earmarked for savings were not the right way to go about it.

Cabinet member for Communities and Neighbourhood Services, Coun Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden), said the £1 million saving was against the backdrop of £100 million cut from the council’s budget since 2010.

“As part of measures we are taking, the budget should be reduced by more than £1 million. Significant progress has already been made delivering almost £500,000 of savings,” she said.

Cabinet agreed to introduce vehicle telematics – for example global positioning systems (GPS), ceasing to run an internal courier service and reducing taxi spend – including on private hire vehicles.

Coun Press said telematics would maximise efficiency and other savings could be made in operating costs, using hire vehicles and buying fuel more efficiently.

Members also endorsed the approach to achieve the balance of savings still required through working with Adults and Children Services, the directorate which uses many of the transport services – including statutory home-to-school transport and non-statutory adult day care transport, for example – and looking at how the Transport Service might generate income.

A business case is being prepared to see whether it is viable to create a second MOT bay at the council’s Battinson Road transport depot by refurbishing an existing but out-of-use one to offer an MOT service to council staff and the public to raise revenue.

But Geoffrey Fielden, invited to speak to councillors, said the courier service was often used to deliver very delicate documents while using vehicles to support children’s and adults’ social services were helping vulnerable people.

“They are talking about access to adult social services for vulnerable people,” he said.

“If adult social services want to buy a service surely they should be allowed to do so.

“And if the Chief Executive plans on wanting to take members to show them something they shouldn’t be asked ‘what for’,” he said.

The vehicles were extremely viable for the council, he added.

“They go to distant schools taking very vulnerable and delicate children – sometimes they need the same driver all the time to establish a relationship with them. That service can’t be delivered by van,” he said.

Leader of the Council Coun Tim Swift (Lab, Town) said Mr Fielden’s comments would be taken on board.

Coun Geraldine Carter (Con, Ryburn) suggested a cross-party working group be formed to ensure Transport Services met the budget available.

Coun Swift said when decisions over children’s transport, for example, were going to be made that would be a suitable time to take the issue to scrutiny or form a working party.
Calderdale’s Transport Services is effectively split into two areas.

Vehicle Services, taking in cross-council fleet procurement and management and vehicle maintenance, is currently projecting an under-spend on its £270,000 annual budget.

Transport Operations takes in home-to-school transport, providing transport assistance to those who qualify, delivering such services for eligible children with special needs and adults with learning disabilities and takes up the lion’s share of the remaining budget.