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Grant Funding For Highland Community Transport Providers Confirmed

17th November 2023

Photograph of Grant Funding For Highland Community Transport Providers Confirmed

Twenty eight community transport initiatives across the Highlands have been awarded a share of £358,850 by The Highland Council to support them with the important role they play in delivering lifeline services to their local communities.

Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Ken Gowans highlights the valuable work undertaken by providers. He said: "The role of Community Transport providers is vital, and we welcome the diversity of projects and activities spread across the Highlands which address local unique circumstances and opportunities.

"Although all projects have their individual characteristics, they all bring important social benefits to communities where any option of public transport either does not exist or is very limited. It's about proactively finding solutions which most closely address and meet local transport needs, with the added benefit of empowering individuals and the broader community."

The report presented to the Economy and Infrastructure Committee on Thursday 16 November 2023 highlighted that the Council has supported some community transport groups in expanding their activities to include home to school transport, where they have been able to provide more cost-effective services for small numbers of pupils than previous private sector contracts.

Four new initiatives are included in the successful applications. Stratherrick and Foyers Community Trust have been awarded £7,500, Applecross Community Company will receive £7,500, Garve Development Trust have been awarded £15,000 and Creich Croick and Kincardine District Day Care Association will receive £15,000 . An additional new applicant, Ferintosh Community Council, are not eligible to receive a community transport grant based on existing criteria, but alternative funding is being sought to support their valuable work.

A list of the twenty eight groups along with their annual awards can be found in the committee report - (agenda item 9)
Read the report to see the full pressure on the budgets to see some groups having funding reductions and increases for a few.

As well as confirming annual funding for the community transport groups, the committee approved that the £7,000 annual budget to support driver training and emergency repairs for Community Transport organisations continues and that a proportion of the funding made available by Transport Scotland's Community Bus Fund (CBF) is used to ensure vehicle provision to a number of groups, as capital funding is not accommodated by the Community Transport grant budget.

With the level of applications exceeding the available budget, it has been necessary to scale back the awards to fit within available budget. That lower level of funding would impact heavily on new applicant organisations, as priority has necessarily been given to
existing projects to support their continuation.

Risk - Future demand for Community Transport services will undoubtedly increase and expand, extending beyond the sector's capacity to cope without funding from other sources.
The ability of Community Transport providers to continue delivering services as intended and as outlined in their applications is heavily dependent upon maintaining the commitment of volunteers. This can be particularly difficult in highly rural areas, which are often most profoundly in need of Community Transport solutions that minimise isolation. This can be mitigated by effective training and activities which engage Community Transport providers to share in best practices.

Beyond the three-year period of these grant award recommendations, funding provision from the Highland Council for these groups is unknown. The need for the sector to continually seek alternative funding sources is persistent; this may inhibit significant growth of individual groups' endeavours and the sector more broadly.