Friday, 9 December 2016

BUG ISSUES "FORMAL COMPLAINT" AGAINST COUNTY COUNCIL

The Northern Dalesman at Ribblehead (c) Northern Echo



For this year's summer season, Lancashire County Council for the first time excluded the popular Dales Bus service 832 from Morecambe to Ingleton (continuing to Hawes and Richmond) (The "Northern Dalesman") from the Concessionary Bus Pass Scheme. In doing so it was following the lead of North Yorkshire County Council, which similarly excluded most - but not all - similar services in its area.

Dales & Bowland CIC, which organises the services, was quick to respond with a cut-price offer for passholders who had previously travelled free of charge, but the Lancaster District Bus Users' Group felt that an issue of principle was at stake and that the two councils appeared to be acting outside the provisions of the relevant legislation.

An Amendment to the regulations in 2009 does allow councils to exclude "services operated primarily for the purposes of tourism" from the bus pass scheme and it is this that the two county councils appear to be relying on to justify their actions. "Tourism" however, is not defined in the amending Order whilst Guidance from the Department for Transport makes it clear that this provision is not intended to exclude ordinary bus services which just happen to serve places of interest to tourists; rather it is aimed at services such as Open-Top City Tours with commentaries and local guides or services operated by vehicles of historic interest.

Lancashire claims to have received legal advice that it is acting within the legislation but has chosen not to share it with the public. A Freedom of Information Request to see the Advice was refused, leaving us with no option but to issue the Formal Complaint.

You can read the text of the complaint via this link.

Apart from being illegal, Lancashire's actions are illogical. It won't pay for local people with bus passes (whom it defines as "tourists") to visit Ingleton or Hawes for a Sunday day out but is happy to pay for them to have a day out in the Lake District or in Blackpool!  It's also happy to pay for them to travel to Ingleton on weekdays - but apparently not on Sundays!

The Council says that Dales Bus services are "outside the spirit of the Act". The Bus Users' Group strongly disputes that but reminds the council that its obligation is to observe the LETTER of the law.

We await the response to our complaint with interest.


2 comments:

  1. It's difficult to see how County can refuse an FOI request. The information might be embarrassing to them but there is no commercial sensitivity or any other reason not to comply. My view is that Lancashire County Council are beginning to feel the heat of objections and the inequity in some of their decision making processes.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. John, The request was refused on the following basis:

      "Please be advised that the information you are seeking is exempt from disclosure by virtue of section 42 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

      Section 42 provides that information is exempt from disclosure if it comprises Information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege or, in Scotland, to confidentiality of communications could be maintained in legal proceedings is exempt information."

      Delete