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CORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 570-i
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Environmental Audit Committee
Transport and the Accessibility of Public Services
Wednesday 24 October 2012
Richard Hebditch, Dr Karen Lucas, Professor Noel Smith and Professor Peter Jones
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1 - 52
USE OF THE TRANSCRIPT
This is a corrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.
The transcript is an approved formal record of these proceedings. It will be printed in due course.
Taken before the Environmental Audit Committee
on Wednesday 24 October 2012
Joan Walley (Chair)
Mr Mark Spencer
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Richard Hebditch, Campaigns Director, Campaign for Better Transport, Dr Karen Lucas, Transport Studies Unit, University of Oxford, Professor Noel Smith, Head of Division, Social Work and Social Policy, University Campus Suffolk, and Professor Peter Jones, Professor of Transport and Sustainable Development, University College London, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: To all our four witnesses this afternoon, a very big thank you for making the time to come along. It is the first formal evidence session of our inquiry into transport and the accessibility of public services. We think it is an important inquiry to do, but I would like to start off by asking each of you to share with us whether or not you think that this is an important issue that needs to be addressed, and perhaps to give us a summary of what has happened since the Social Exclusion Unit’s report 10 years ago on travel and social exclusion-where you think the current thinking and agenda are in terms of policymaking. I do not know whether or not, Mr Hebditch, you wish to go first, but you are very welcome to.
Richard Hebditch: Thanks very much. Thank you for inviting us. I think it is very important, and not just in terms of your Committee’s agenda around the environment and sustainable development. The transport system that we have is very much geared around the car: it is very car-dependent, which has implications for the amount of carbon we get from transport, as well as for air pollution and noise pollution. It is also interesting in terms of the interaction between an environmental agenda, a sustainable development agenda, and a wider social justice agenda. This inquiry and the previous Social Exclusion Unit report are very interesting because they show that measures to address accessibility and social justice actually have a very positive impact on the environment as well.
Q2 Chair: Does anybody wish to add to that? Professor Jones?
Professor Jones: Thank you. Basically, access to goods and services is crucial to people’s lives-one cannot live one’s life just locked away at home. Accessing health, education etc is part of life, quality of life, and a sign of a healthy society. I think what you are looking at is core to people’s livelihood and wellbeing.
In terms of what changed, if you had looked at a scorecard, there are some pluses and minuses. I guess the pluses are that when the social exclusion report came out, there was a lot of concern about the cost of bus travel. While fares have gone up, more people now can enjoy free bus travel or reduced-price bus travel, so some sectors-elderly people, certain disability groups-now have the opportunity to travel free on public transport where it is available. Similarly, over the last eight or 10 years, a lot more vehicles have been made accessible to people in wheelchairs and therefore people with pushchairs and things. Some bits of accessibility have improved, but in many sectors, services are further concentrated, particularly in the health service, making it more difficult for people to get there, and there have been cutbacks in bus services and so on, so I think it is quite a mixed picture, actually.
Professor Smith: I have to admit that I was kind of pulled kicking and shouting into the transport world. My specialism is social policy, and when I was first approached by the Department for Transport to come and do some work for them I thought, "That is not my area at all." That was probably seven or eight years ago. Since then, I have realised the obvious fact that people’s ability to access essential goods and services, and access to opportunities, are really essential for wellbeing. They should be at the heart of social policy. We can have social policy agendas that address, say, poverty or inequality at higher levels, but the nuts and bolts of it-the real tangible elements of wellbeing and equality-are about whether people can access the services and the opportunities they need. I think that that makes it really important. If you talk to people who have benefited from what I call accessibility initiatives, programmes that are set up to address accessibility problems, I think that you will uncover innumerable stories that are really powerful about these services having sometimes a life-changing impact on people’s lives. I think that that is really important.
Q3 Chair: I do not think the Department for Transport has ever been a champion, if you like, of the kind of appraisal that takes into account social considerations. Do you see any move by the Department for Transport to adjust the appraisals that they would be doing to take on board this agenda?
Professor Smith: Those appraisals were inherent to a degree in accessibility planning policy. I always see accessibility planning policy as being like the Department for Transport social policy. I think that that is a policy that is developed from the Making the Connections report. It is a very sophisticated policy and still has a lot of potential, but I think that it has run aground at the moment.
Q4 Chair: Okay. Dr Lucas, do not feel you have to comment-it is not that everyone has to come in on every question-but perhaps you would like to reflect on the current economic situation and whether or not that makes it more necessary than ever that this agenda is addressed, and perhaps, at the same time, makes it less likely that it will be.
Dr Lucas: It is no secret that this is a subject very close to my heart, and I am very glad that the Committee has picked up on it again because I think it has gone into the twilight zone rather since the SEU report in 2003. Having been part of the construction of that report and accessibility planning as a way forward, I have to say that the Department for Transport were taken into that kicking and screaming. The Social Exclusion Unit would have preferred originally that this policy agenda be left as more of a local-community bottom-up agenda; that was the original plan. In some ways, although there has been progress, as Professor Jones said, around some of the concessionary fares and to a certain extent with some local authorities really going forward with the accessibility planning agenda, it has not been best represented by being a transport agenda. This is why I think the Committee is doing a very good job by thinking of this as much more a matter of access to public services, and that being access in all sorts of different ways, which was the original intention of the SEU report; it is not just about transport services.
To come back to your point and the very different social context and policy context for this agenda, this is also very timely now, because what we are seeing is so many cutbacks in services across the board and not very clear evidence that this is being done with any proper full consideration of the social implications for people who are reliant on these services, and reliant on access by means other than the car.
Q5 Martin Caton: What factors affect how accessible public services are in transport terms? Is it just about whether there is a bus to the doctor, the shops, or the hospital, or is it something more complex than that?
Professor Jones: There are several factors. The work that the Department for Transport did in commissioning software after accessibility planning was developed in the form of the Accession software, and the current accessibility indicators very much stress the travel time involved. That is obviously an important factor, but it is much more complicated than that, for several reasons. First, the fact that there is a service from A to B does not mean it is available at the time that people need to use it. Secondly, for many people there is still the issue of fares. There are issues of gaining access to-reaching-these public transport services through feeling safe about going out to wait at the bus stop, or feeling safe on public transport.
There are those issues around the transport itself, and then what we found in research in which I think all of us have been involved, is that, as we would expect, people’s lives are very complicated: the day is about scheduling a whole series of things. It is not just a question of the bus being there; it is a question of whether there is time after you drop the children at school to get the next bus to the Jobcentre or the hospital appointment, and then get back in time to pick up the children or to arrange childcare. Travel for most people takes place as part of a tight interconnected web, and particularly in suburban areas or rural areas, where bus service frequencies are not that high, it can be very difficult to schedule things, so any reduction in service frequency or any failure in the service can have quite serious consequences for people.
Dr Lucas: There is also a massive issue for some groups around information and just knowledge of the system and of what happens at either end of the journey. If you are a person who has not had a job before and you are expected to enter a new area where you have never been, just navigating yourself around that area might be quite complex. There has been quite a lot of work done with people at the local level, trying to buddy them through the system, because some people just do not understand how to use the system, how to pay their fares and what is expected of them, and there are also issues around how they are treated by bus drivers. There is a raft of issues around accessibility that are much more than just physically whether there is a bus there every 10 minutes.
Professor Smith: All of that is absolutely right. There are some obvious things about physical access-physical accessibility is obviously a key one there. There is also a likely barrier around what we call travel horizons, which is about people having the confidence to travel to places where they have not been before. You can imagine the scenario of somebody who has grown up in an estate and not feeling comfortable about travelling very far outside of that estate, so that is an issue. It is also really important to say that it is complex not just in the range of barriers that people face, but because the barriers they face are likely to be multiple and multi-layered. We might see somebody who says that they cannot access a service because there are no buses. There might be buses, but it might be that they do not have the information, so you can give them the information. Then it might be the case that they feel insecure or worried about using that service, so you can provide that information and that help. Then, it could be the case that when they start using the bus, they realise that it is unaffordable or that it does not actually get them to where they need to go on time. It is important to keep in mind that multi-layering of barriers, too.
Richard Hebditch: The only thing I would add is that for the last 30 or 40 years, we have had a very much car-dependent society, so location of shops and location of employment is very much geared towards those with a car, and access is increasingly difficult for those who do not have a car. You can see that in the fact that the journey length people are making for most trips has gone up by about 40% since the 1970s. People are having to travel further for the same sort of things than they were doing 30 or 40 years ago.
Q6 Martin Caton: Dr Lucas, your research suggests that accessibility to public services is very individualised. Does that present problems when trying to get a handle on the issue and deliver solutions?
Dr Lucas: It is very important to see the individual context. As Noel has just pointed out here, this multi-layering and understanding accessibility and transport within the context of those people’s lives and important, but there is a much more macro way that you can aggregate those things and pull certain things together. It is possible to look at those things on a more aggregate level as well. The understanding is very context-specific: what happens to an unemployed person in Liverpool is entirely different from what happens to an unemployed person in Tower Hamlets, but all of them may have accessibility issues to take into consideration.
Q7 Martin Caton: Do we have a strong enough evidence base to understand all the environmental and social consequences of poor accessibility? Are there any particular bits of the problem we should be focusing on?
Professor Smith: The one thing that we really need better evidence on is what works. If you don’t mind, I’d like to add a couple of comments on the previous point about whether accessibility is too individualised and we cannot do anything about it because it is too individualised. One is that it is individualised, but there are very clear patterns in terms of people’s travel behaviour and their use, some of them very much tied to the life course. The examples that Karen has given show that the context might change, but there will still be young people who are likely to need to travel to education and employment and their barriers are likely to be around affordability and public transport. Although the problem they face at an individual level is complex, I think that you can address it by looking at the patterns. Also, there is a range of options about how you design interventions to address people’s problems, and some of those can be individual solutions, for example, in the form of scooter schemes. It is a general scheme, but it gives an individual solution to one person. That is just one thing I would like to add.
I think there is plenty of missing evidence. My colleagues will point to various aspects of that. One thing that has been outstanding, which I picked up and reported to the DfT in 2005, is a lack of systematic evaluation of the impact of initiatives. It is very difficult to get gold-standard evidence about what initiatives work. There is lots of qualitative evidence about individual programmes, but that systematic evaluation evidence is poor.
Professor Jones: Very briefly, yes, it is relatively easy to measure what does happen. It is much more difficult to measure what is not happening. One aspect of this is the fact that people are prevented from doing things-people are not making journeys because there is not the transport or they do not have the confidence. That is the thing that is difficult to measure-what is not happening rather than what is happening, as it were.
Q8 Peter Aldous: If I can just take something up that Professor Smith mentioned, it is going back to Suffolk, where we both come from. Looking at the Work programme, which is the programme that the DWP are rolling out to get people back into work, when I talked to two providers in Lowestoft, they said the main challenge and issue is accessibility: getting people to work. I have been pointed in the direction of the scooter programme, but unfortunately there are not enough scooters to go about. I just wondered whether, on an issue like that, the DWP are liaising with the DfT, or are the two departments working in silos?
Professor Smith: Accessibility planning policy, coming from the Making the Connections report, is a sophisticated policy in the sense that it was quite clearly designed to be cross-departmental. I have recently completed an evaluation of accessibility planning policy, and one of the things we particularly looked at was about the degree of cross-departmental work, which is central-crucial-to the policy. We found that it is very, very poor. To generalise, I think that they are very much working in silos.
Chair: I am going to turn now to Sheryll Murray, who is going to start to move us towards the direction of that questioning.
Q9 Sheryll Murray: We will come on to the accessibility planning in just a moment, but what is the Department for Transport’s overall approach to improving accessibility in its working?
Dr Lucas: I think it would be fair to say that it does not have one at the moment, to be honest. Accessibility planning was its focus for a while, and the latest White Paper is much more around creating growth and protecting the environment. The social issues have dropped off the agenda, and I would say that the social research department within the Department for Transport has been brought down to a skeleton in terms of its staffing and its resourcing. Accessibility planning has gone on to the back shelf. It talks about equality of opportunity, but does not necessarily think about how that might be different from equality of outcome. Whereas social exclusion was very much about bringing the bottom up to the average and giving those very clear targets, this idea of equality of opportunity is not really being pushed through, I would not have said, with Department for Transport policy.
Q10 Sheryll Murray: Do you think that the Department of Health and the Department for Education, for instance, consider it sufficiently as well? Is it considered enough by other departments, outside the Department for Transport?
Dr Lucas: No, I would echo what Professor Smith says. I think that the idea behind accessibility planning was that it would be a key local stakeholder engagement tool: it would provide the evidence for the local stakeholders to work together to have joined-up solutions. That probably was never really achieved. As for the guidance that went out from the other departments, although they signed up to 150 commitments as part of the SEU report, they were not followed through. The implementation of those commitments was not monitored because the Social Exclusion Unit became a taskforce and so forth. If you talk to some health providers-for example, a public health authority-they may say, "Oh, yes, we have heard of that," but a lot would say they had not. I think Education (Department of) was never probably on board. Anything that happens in those areas happens by individual champions and/or past relationships with local authorities that have worked well and, therefore, they are still liaising with those stakeholders rather than systematically.
Q11 Sheryll Murray: That actually brings us nicely into my next question. There do seem to be quite a few small schemes and projects run by various parts of local and central Government. At what point does anyone look at what is working and where more effort is needed? How well does the DfT undertake this role, if they do it at all?
Dr Lucas: I guess that the accessibility planning evaluation that was undertaken by Professor Smith and the CRSP team was designed to do that a little, albeit perhaps a little too late to capture some of it. There is fantastic work going on across all sorts of agencies on the ground. I think, as echoed by what you said, those initiatives are very highly appreciated by the people who benefit from them, but they are small-scale.
Q12 Sheryll Murray: Are there any particular government policies, in transport or otherwise, that are reducing accessibility? Whose job do you think is it to consider these and look across Government?
Dr Lucas: When the Social Exclusion Unit report came out, it made a very clear statement that no one was responsible for accessibility, and that is still the case, if what you tried to do is look across the board. I would say that no, there is not an evaluation of other Government policies and what they do in terms of negatively affecting accessibility. There is a lot of talk about out-of-town developments and the big stuff, but there are also smaller things like, for example, the 14-to-19 curriculum within schools, which never really considered whether people could get from A to B to C to get to these specialist areas or that there was a transport implication, some of which could be quite considerable, beyond the walking distance of children; or, in after-school provision, whether there is any opportunity for people to be able to get back after school if they were relying on a school bus. There are plenty of incidents where you could see, yes, other policy is negatively affecting accessibility.
Q13 Sheryll Murray: I have some other questions for you, Dr Lucas. I was brought up-
Chair: Can I just interrupt? I think Mr Hebditch wanted to come in on that point.
Sheryll Murray: Oh, sorry.
Richard Hebditch: Just to add I think one of the areas where there is some tension is planning policy, not just in terms of the overarching planning policy, but things like use class orders that protect local shops, and protecting office space rather than it going into housing. There is a worry about what is happening to that. In education policy, I guess, with free schools, obviously the desire is to free up the system and encourage the development of free schools, but looking at whether or not they are accessible for people-whether they are in the right location and those kinds of things-is very much removed from the process.
Dr Lucas: There is the effect of school closures as well.
Richard Hebditch: Yes.
Professor Jones: Ideally, the philosophy of accessibility planning is that consideration is given to how somebody could get from their home to access a range of goods and services. As we say, quite often these are interlinked, with childcare linked to being able to get to hospital, etc. Even if you go down to the really basic level and just look at it sector by sector and forget that broader picture, even there it is not joined up. An example two or three years ago was in Corby where they spent £30 million opening a new school academy on the edge of town, which led to a £300,000-a-year cost to provide school transport, which was not taken into account as part of that. There is a similar situation on the hospital side. Until service providers are in some way made to feel responsible for the costs of accessing those services, there will not be that consideration. Bus operators say now that the first time they get consulted about serving a new hospital is when it is just about to open, when it is too late to actually provide good services into the hospital. Even when you narrow it down, it is still not happening at the most basic level, unfortunately.
Q14 Sheryll Murray: I can understand what you are saying, because in my constituency I remember, about six or seven years ago the previous Government provided a grant for new transport-new buses-and when the buses came they could not actually run the routes because they were too big; so I can quite understand what you are talking about there. Dr Lucas, you recommend that a social value of transport is developed and agreed by the Treasury. Is it possible to monetise all the benefits of improved accessibility?
Dr Lucas: It is not impossible, and I think there are multiple ways to do it. There have been several studies that have suggested ways-social return on investment, accessibility benefits, journey time savings-and all sorts of studies that have gone forward. My recommendation that it needs to be taken up by Treasury is because it has to be validated. We have to have everybody agree in the same way that journey time saving is worth X pence per passenger per mile or whatever. We have to have that broad agreement. I think that a lot of local authorities have struggled with the lack of having a social value, because when they have been having to cut back services, they have had to argue against other areas, other sectors, and they have not had anything to be able to show that there is a social contribution from the services that they are cutting. If you only look at it in terms of economic effectiveness, that is problematic. It is a wide and varied area in which there would be all sorts of methodological arguments, but one could come up with something that was a formula, as long as it was agreed. I think that is the difficulty.
Q15 Sheryll Murray: Do you know of any local examples where a social value is being used by service or transport providers?
Dr Lucas: Not now. I do know that in the Isle of Wight, for a while, they were simply using people no longer needing to claim in relation to council tax, so there were council tax savings, and lots of very straightforward ways. We valued some local community initiatives by just using the standard Department for Transport methodology, but it takes a lot of data collection to do it that way. I think once you have proved the point, you do not need to have to keep doing those sorts of studies.
Q16 Sheryll Murray: The National Infrastructure Plan includes a number of transport infrastructure schemes. Does that focus, on providing capital rather than revenue expenditure, starve funds for schemes that could most readily improve accessibility?
Richard Hebditch: Yes, is the answer. It is quite interesting that, in the spending review, where decisions are taken about obviously departmental budgets, the evidence-or what appears to be evidence-about the value of big capital infrastructure projects is much stronger. Because they go through a large appraisal process, they can talk about what their benefit/cost ratios are. For the kind of projects we are talking about, there is much less evidence for all that. Because they are often smaller amounts of money, it would cost a lot as a proportion to do that kind of appraisal for those kinds of projects. When you came to the spending review, you can see the revenue budgets were squeezed. You can see that the smaller capital budgets in local transport plans were squeezed because there was not the evidence base, but the big projects, because they have their nice, fancy, shiny BCRs, they tended to survive quite well.
Q17 Sheryll Murray: Once accessibility problems have been identified, who do you think should fund solutions to tackle these? Will this always have to be the central Government, or could it be other bodies-for example, developers or service users?
Dr Lucas: I think it depends what you put into your development plans and what you put into your development laws. There is nothing to stop developers being charged for those sorts of things in the same way as they have been charged with providing affordable housing or other things.
Q18 Sheryll Murray: Play areas?
Dr Lucas: Yes. It could be there. Of course, in the current economic environment, one would argue that would be a big challenge. It works in an area where there is a high demand-for example, for housing-but not so much in an area where there is not that demand, so expecting the funds to come from those sources could be problematic.
Q19 Sheryll Murray: Going on from that, do you think perhaps in areas where there was not the development taking place then service users should have to bear the burden?
Richard Hebditch: In terms of bus services, you want them to be self-sustaining and able to generate revenue. That does require some ongoing support from local authorities, and local authorities, with, I think, 95% of tax revenue going to central Government, face difficulties and budget cuts. You would want to try to maintain a good bus service and that requires a level of subsidy from the local authority. It requires good partnership-working between bus companies and local authorities, and that is the way that you want to try to sustain the sort of services that can then support those who we particularly want to help. On top of that, there are particular schemes that you do, like the wheels to work-type schemes, but maintaining a core bus service is a key part of it.
Sheryll Murray: Can I just have one supplementary before-
Chair: Then I think Professor Jones wants to reply as well.
Q20 Sheryll Murray: What about community buses run by the local community for the local community? Do you think these should be encouraged?
Richard Hebditch: I think so. Peter, were you going to come in on that?
Professor Jones: No, I was going to come on to the other things.
Richard Hebditch: I think they are an important part of it, particularly in areas where it is difficult to sustain a bus service, and particularly in rural areas where there is not the level of demand and the high enough population to do that. I think if you talk to community transport operators, they do not see that they could take on what is currently provided by commercial operators or local authorities. They are an additional service that you can target, but they are not a replacement for a good bus service.
Dr Lucas: They do not come cost-free; that is the most important thing.
Richard Hebditch: Yes.
Dr Lucas: They do not come cost-free, so you still have to subsidise those services if you want them to be reliable.
Richard Hebditch: There is the old adage about services for poor people being poor services. There are some examples from the research that we conducted, near Hartlepool in the Burbank Estate, where the bus services were completely cut and all the funding was cut, but one free bus service a week was provided. It sounds like they are providing a service to support accessibility, but it is one bus service once a week at set times, and it is a minibus, so it is not that accessible. It is not the kind of service that people need to access jobs, so it is not a sustainable solution.
Q21 Peter Aldous: One of the Government’s particular schemes has been the sustainable transport fund, where quite a number of awards have been provided-I think it is £600 million, and it has leveraged in another £400 million. I am not sure who to address this question to, but in assessing the various applications that were made, was accessibility a criterion that was taken into account? In evaluating the schemes once they have taken place, will and should some sort of assessment be then made to determine their success or not as to how successful they are in improving accessibility?
Richard Hebditch: Accessibility was not one of the core considerations. It was part of it, but the core things were about supporting the economy and cutting carbon primarily. I think it was a consideration as they looked at things, but it was not the core consideration. On the other hand, those kinds of things tend to come together. The big worry we have about it is that there is no co-ordinated coherent approach to evaluating the local sustainable transport fund, so it is very much left to local authorities to talk to each other about what evaluation they might do. It has been very difficult to get the Department for Transport to agree a sensible way to evaluate things. That generally is a problem in transport, where we have an extremely well-developed appraisal system before schemes are ever approved, but there is a lot less interest in actually learning the lessons of what the transport spending has been.
Q22 Peter Aldous: We do have the Department for Transport coming to this inquiry, so we can take that point up with them.
Professor Smith: Just to add on the point there, that is an important point when we think about the future of accessibility planning. I think that there was probably every opportunity for local sustainable transport plan funding to have taken into account accessibility.
Q23 Chair: Okay, we might come on to that in a moment. Professor Jones?
Professor Jones: Can I just pick up on two or three points? Just quickly on the last point, clearly evaluation is very important, but there is rather a tradition of organisations deciding on the evaluation once the scheme has started. It is very difficult to do good evaluation unless you can go in before it starts and look at the conditions before the intervention, not just afterwards.
If I could comment on two of the other issues that you raised, social impacts are very much the poor relation. We know a lot about environmental impacts and economic impacts, but we do not even really know what we mean by social impacts, let alone be able to measure and value them, quite often. I think there is an important aspect there in relation to evaluation in that we tend on the whole to use market value. If we are trying to value something in monetary terms, we try to find out what is the market value, either by seeing what the market value is or by using techniques of asking how much money people would pay for something. There are also social valuations of things, and I think that is an area to which we ought to perhaps be giving more thought.
To give you an example of an extreme. If you were to look at an area of outstanding national beauty and there was a proposal to put a motorway through or a development, and you were talking about how much is that land worth, of course in market terms it is not worth very much because you cannot do anything with it; but implicitly society is saying that that is worth more than the highest commercial value because we want to preserve it as it is. In that sense, there is a sort of implied social value that is much higher than a market value. I think that happens in many other areas as well, but we have not really teased that out.
On the capital-revenue thing, I do not think it is just about capital and revenue. If you look not just at a sector but more broadly at providing accessibility for communities to goods and services, a lot of the problems relate to co-ordination between different agencies. That does not necessarily take much money; it is just a question of changing cultures and mindsets and changing the priorities of organisations. As I said, for example, if you made the education authority responsible for the education travel budget, then they will take account of that more clearly in their decisions about location, etc. It is not necessarily always about more money. It is about changing priorities and responsibilities so that people start addressing problems from a different perspective.
Chair: That is exactly the tack that Mark Lazarowicz is now going to pursue further.
Q24 Mark Lazarowicz: We have been hearing about various experiences that affect different services. Professor Smith, you just completed a review of a whole regime as far as accessibility planning is concerned. I wonder how you would summarise your main findings and, in particular, the main defects to the current regime.
Professor Smith: It is important to say that our evaluation was of the process and impact of the policy rather than the initiatives. What we looked at was the impact of the policy on local authority planning, so that is local transport plans, and then we looked at how those plans were implemented into practice. One of the findings was about the concept in terms of accessibility, and we found that the use of that in the policy was very beneficial for people on the ground. It did two things. To a degree before accessibility planning policy there had always been some kind of accessibility planning-trying to improve access for people-but it was very much on an ad hoc basis. The planning gave the opportunity for a more structured, systematic approach, so that there was some clarity about that. It also gave people who were always championing access for people who are potentially socially excluded some legitimacy in saying that this was a direction that was supported by central Government, so it was very important at that point.
When we looked at what actually happened in practice, we did find a few examples of where the planning policy had fed through to a direct impact on the ground in terms of achieved services. More than that, we found that existing initiatives were rebadged under accessibility planning policy. There is nothing wrong with that, but if local authorities were relying on things that had been around before rather than taking a fresh and evidence-based approach to what was needed, that was slightly problematic. Probably more worrying is that we found some very impressive plans that were submitted by local authorities without, when it came to it, any clear strategy for actually implementing them. I do not think it would be too unfair to say that some local transport authorities were going through the motions of coming up with very good plans that, when the LTP was published, were, in effect, shelved. It was also interesting to-
Q25 Chair: Can I just press you on that, because that is quite a big statement for you to make. Are you suggesting that local authorities’ transport departments are putting in applications to the Department for Transport for funding with no management ability to actually deliver?
Professor Smith: We had examples where the planning process had been followed through to identify what problems needed to be addressed, and then in some cases the people who were responsible for putting the plan together moved on. In other places, funding that was anticipated did not materialise In some cases, the degree to which those plans were realistic was, I think, questionable.
The other side of it is that in some of these local authorities, we found that really quite successful initiatives that were happening that were not included in the plan. What that suggested was that local authorities had not been making best use of all of their local resources. I think that is also important to note.
Dr Lucas: Can I give you an example? One of the fundamental things that accessibility planning was supposed to do was encourage local authorities to think about where they would spend and reorganise their bus subsidies so that they were targeting places where they were needed at times of the day, rather than just following the legacy of history, so that they would fundamentally rethink what they were subsidising on the basis of accessibility. Basically, you would find that the person who had written the accessibility plan would be in the planning and development department and the person who was co-ordinating the bus services did not even know that there was an accessibility plan. Transport in and of itself is an entirely fragmented beast, with people not working together, and often not even in parallel. You might well have the local transport plan primarily focusing on the economic performance-maybe some sort of major new light rapid transit or something like that, because it is what the engineers wanted to do-and then somewhere way down in the back tombs of the local authority there is somebody writing up an accessibility plan.
Q26 Mark Lazarowicz: I understand what you say, but it is probably the nature of local authorities. Some are going to be good, some are going to be bad, there is going to be good practice and bad practice. Overall, is the picture that accessibility planning is either a poor relation or not done at all in an effective way in most transport planning exercises, or is it just a few and most are making an effort? Can you characterise it at all in terms of effectiveness?
Dr Lucas: Yes, because basically it is quite simple. It was a different culture to think about accessibility instead of mobility. Let me make this clear: to think about social outcomes instead of engineering, mobility and infrastructure, and to think about what happens instead of thinking about building systems and about people getting to places-that is a fundamentally different culture within local transport authorities. It was not necessarily one that they wanted to have foisted upon them.
Q27 Mark Lazarowicz: Would you say that is generally true of local authorities?
Dr Lucas: Yes, generally it is something that they are not trained to do. It is not fundamental to a local transport authority’s core skills.
Q28 Mark Lazarowicz: Can I come to Professor Smith, who has just done the review? Would you share that conclusion?
Professor Smith: I would, and I think I would characterise it like this: the local authorities who were most successful were ones where there were accessibility planning officers who would champion it. It very often came down to one or a few people within a local authority who understood accessibility in its full sense and pursued it with vigour inside their authorities.
Dr Lucas: The higher up they were within that local authority and the more power they had, the more successful they were. Also, the more that they were able to work with other stakeholders, the more successful they were. In authorities where the social mandate was essential to their political mandate-so where you had an authority that had a lot of poverty, a lot of problems around access to employment and so forth-they pushed the agenda, because it was worth it to them; whereas in another authority where that was more of a marginal issue, then they did not bother. Yes, a lot of them went through the protocol of submitting plans, and it is absolutely right, Ms Walley, that they did put plans together to jump through a hoop and they got put on shelves, because there was never any chance that they could be realistically-
Q29 Chair: A kind of local champion?
Dr Lucas: Yes, if they didn’t have a local champion.
Q30 Mark Lazarowicz: This failing of the system is not just the responsibility, of course, of the local authorities. The DfT is obviously involved in the process as well. Were DfT failing to get to grips with accessibility planning when they were dealing with local transport plans, or is that unfair?
Professor Smith: One of the issues with accessibility planning is the fact that there was a lack of dedicated funding for accessibility plans, which could have made things an uphill struggle within local authorities, but also, I suppose, the Department for Transport had less teeth in terms of trying to drive things through. One particular point worth highlighting in what you would expect the Department for Transport to be in the prime position to do, but did not do, is in terms of developing a cross-government approach to accessibility planning. What happened on the ground is that where local authorities were supposed to be liaising with Education, with DWP, with Health, they were talking to partners who were largely unaware of accessibility planning policy; or, if they were aware of it, they misconstrued it and saw it very much as a transport problem. The Department for Transport did publish guidance for all statutory authorities about accessibility planning and cross-government responsibilities, but for people that we spoke to in Health and Education and other Departments, it arrived one day, this single piece of guidance that arrived on their desk along with the piles of other guidance, and there was no follow-through, no conversation.
Q31 Chair: When was that guidance issued?
Dr Lucas: Basically, the full guidance came in 2006. It then took another year before all of the accessibility plans were through, so 2007. You are not going to be able to monitor the effects of it until 2009, in these evaluations, and by then the agenda has moved on quite significantly. At the same time, a number of the funding sources that were available when that guidance was written were no longer there-for example, discretionary funding with the jobcentres where the manager’s funding was allowed to fund transport initiatives. The Department of Health was in the process of devolving to the NHS. There were lots of issues along the line that basically undermined some of the guidance that was there.
Professor Jones: Just to underline this point, I think it is quite fundamental that a subject like accessibility to public services is something that cuts across the whole of Government. Social exclusion was a Cabinet Office initiative, and that worked very well. The problem is the Government has a mechanism for setting up cross-government studies but not for delivering across Government. What happened was that, when it got down to delivery, the feeling was, "It has to go to a Department to deliver it. Where shall we put it?" The feeling was, "Let’s put it to the Department for Transport," because part of accessibility planning is about transport, so it goes to the Department for Transport. Immediately everybody else thinks, "It is only about putting on a few more buses." Instead of being something like this, it collapses down to something very specific. Then, as you say, there is a lot of emphasis on local delivery, and when people try to deliver locally and they talk to the local hospital, the local hospital says, "We do not know anything about it. It is not a priority from our ministry." I think that is a real problem, not just that the funding sources are not there.
We did some work in South Yorkshire. We worked with the public there and with local service providers to talk about how to provide better services. We ran some professional workshops and some brainstorming for suggestions for how to join up services, and afterwards the head of education came up to me and said, "That was an excellent scheme. We have come up with some great ideas, but I have two primary objectives I have to meet as head of my authority. This is neither of them, so it will not happen."
Q32 Mark Lazarowicz: We have covered this issue at great length, and I had better not use any more time. Just one last point, which is that part of the way in which accessibility would have been encouraged in the past was by extra funding made available to encourage accessibility. Now we live in an era where we are talking about spending reductions, not spending increases. How might that have an impact on accessibility planning? Could it indeed lead to even a higher profile, in a sense that accessibility could be a criterion requiring authorities to judge more carefully how they allocate their resource, perhaps? What is your view, not on whether or not it is a good thing, but on how, in an era of reducing funding, should that relate to the accessibility planning agenda?
Dr Lucas: Do you mind if I just give my example? It is quite interesting. Derek Halden, who is one of the people who has provided written evidence and with whom we worked on the pilot studies, said to me the other day, "It is interesting. When we developed accessibility planning, it was to identify where there were gaps in services and we could find ways to fill those gaps. Now I am using it very effectively to make sure that the cutbacks in services that are happening are not having a disproportionate negative effect on the most needy within society." I think that at the very least, as a safety net for all the funding changes that are going on, local authorities need to be thinking about the effects of their cutbacks on those most needy groups in terms of being able to access key life opportunities. If you close a school, you need to make sure that the kids can get to the other school-that they can get there reliably and they can still get to after school clubs and those sorts of things. If that is not happening, then find ways to mitigate the worst social impacts on them in terms of maybe having opportunities during school time, or changing policies in another way could be used to help to mitigate the worst social impacts of reduced access to services. We have seen across the written evidence that people believe that there is reduced access to life opportunities as a result of these cutbacks, not just in transport but across the board. It could be a way to make sure that the worst affected-the lower-income groups, the unprotected and the vulnerable-are not adversely affected by this.
Richard Hebditch: I think Peter’s point about how you can pool budgets as well to get the best efficiencies out of local authorities is right. At a national level as well, it has been difficult for Departments to work collaboratively with the spending review. They are all very much protecting their own budgets. One of the interesting ideas that the Treasury tried to put forward or maybe just floated in the spending review was about joint budgets between Government departments to tackle particular issues. I do not think any Government Department put that forward in the context of 25% cuts, but that is the kind of thing we would like to see at a local level, which could help to tackle some of these issues. If central Government was serious about trying to deliver on this kind of agenda, then that is the kind of measure that would be sensible.
Professor Jones: The point is that when there are cutbacks in bus service provision or other forms of service provision, it is not just a question of saving money. It often leads to costs in other parts of the economy, but we are not very good at tracing that through. I think it would be valuable to do an exercise to try to trace through the consequences of cuts in education budgets on crime or on health, or whatever. They do not just disappear. There are ripple effects that we do not understand. Therefore, to simply say, "We are saving money," is not necessarily true. We are probably not spending it all, but we are probably incurring costs elsewhere within the economy.
Q33 Chair: I am very conscious of the fact that we had evidence some weeks ago from DECC-well, it was DECC-related evidence relating to a completely different subject, but there was a tool which was actually measuring some of that. Are you aware of any tool or mechanism that exists that would be able to make that kind of appraisal that you have just referred to, of what the cost/benefit analysis would be of changing one set of service delivery, say at Education or Health, and looking at the added cost that would then be in somebody else’s lap?
Professor Jones: No. I have made various enquiries about this, and I have not come across anything significant. I do not think people tend to look outside their own sectors particularly at the impacts.
Q34 Chair: Okay. Professor Smith?
Professor Smith: I agree fully with the points that have been made. I think that resources are obviously important but we all understand the climate that we are living in. It is important to think about doing things more effectively. That co-ordinated approach at the central Government level is really important to feed down to better policy making at the local level.
One of the positive things to come out of my evaluation was that networking between local authorities and a range of community and voluntary providers on the ground in terms of accessibility planning was often really good, and that was a real strength of it. In many ways, accessibility sits very well with localism. Accessibility is about identifying and tailoring problems at the local level. It is about co-ordinating partnerships, and enabling people to access things so that they can participate in their local areas. Harnessing and using those kind of partnerships is very important. In order to look at the effective use of services, we identified some plans where community and voluntary services providing a service outside of the accessibility plan had not been picked up. I think that better use, better local co-ordination, is very important and at a high level is about better knowledge exchange and better spread of best practice. My sense is that there is lots of innovation going on in small pockets right across the country, which is reinventing the wheel; people following the same mistakes, and people missing out on learning that is happening elsewhere.
Professor Jones: I think that is true, though sometimes that local facilitation is hampered by barriers that result from national legislation or just conventions, whatever. In many ways, one can facilitate and help that by identifying what is it that is stopping it happening that may be due to something from national Government that could be relaxed or removed.
Professor Smith: I think central Government has a clear role here, because you need a central point to negotiate and co-ordinate lots of local activity.
Q35 Simon Wright: If you accept that there are particular groups of people, maybe on geographical or socioeconomic bases, who are at particular risk of accessibility problems-many of you refer to particular groups in your evidence-who do you think is best placed to identify those at-risk groups and the ways they may not have sufficient access to services?
Dr Lucas: I think we have already seen within some of the written evidence that there are advocacy organisations that are quite happy to speak out in those terms. We have had written evidence from Age Concern, for example, and a number of disability advocacy groups. Mencap has come forward, as has the British Youth Parliament. I am not trying to push this idea of accessibility planning as being the only way forward, but it was quite carefully thought through that there was a lot of local stakeholder involvement intended, and that allowed a lot of the local advocacy groups to have a voice at the table and to state their needs. There are, of course, groups that do not speak out that need protecting. I think the other thing is that it was to encourage the other sectors to talk about what their goals and their primary targets were, who their groups of concern were; for example, young people not in education and employment, or lone parents. Those groups could come forward from social policy or health policy, or health and equalities policy. You could then identify that those are the target groups, these are the target services, and can they get to the target services? If they cannot get there, they are not going to get the intervention. The first point of delivery is to get them to the services that they need to get to or the interventions that they need to reach. That was the idea, that it was a multi-sector-orientated set of targets that were very much focused on those groups and those individuals.
Richard Hebditch: The equality duties are quite useful in terms of that as well. One thing we were involved with was the case in Cambridgeshire where the local authority was going to cut all the funding for supported bus services. Part of the challenge that we did with local people affected was about using equality duties to challenge whether they had thought through the implications of it for different groups in society. I think that is a very useful way of getting people to think about it.
There is an issue with localism generally that we expect that all local authorities are going to be behaving in purely evidenced-based, rational ways, but they are not necessarily going to be doing that. Particularly with things like bus services, we have to try to have the voice of bus users given a fair say in decisions about transport spending, where often, particularly with local enterprise partnerships playing a stronger role, it is the voice of business that is seen as the most important thing. I think it is often quite difficult for local authorities, for those working in transport, to give a voice to those who are affected by decisions. There are some useful things, such as Passenger Focus have produced a toolkit about how to consult if you are going to change bus services or cut bus services. Finding ways to give voice to those groups who are marginalised within local areas is really important.
Q36 Simon Wright: The 2003 SEU report identified tackling accessibility problems as a way of increasing participation in society and lifting people out of poverty. To what extent, since that report has been published, has Government responded to that challenge, and where else does it need to go?
Richard Hebditch: Concessionary fares for disabled people and older people are one way we have seen that, but if you are looking at the range of people who rely on bus services, then it is those on lower incomes and particularly young people, and there are very limited offers for them in terms of concessionary fares. I think that is a particular challenge, particularly at the moment with very high rates of youth unemployment and also the challenge of wages not rising at the same time as prices rising. That is an area that is going to be particularly difficult-making sure that young people have access both to colleges with reduction and ending of educational maintenance allowance, but also to employment as well. Often, opportunities for employment are not necessarily in places that you can access very well by public transport.
Dr Lucas: A couple of local authorities have been very successful in using this participation in employment focus for European objective 1 funding, and integrating it with their regeneration plans and their employment plans and actually mainstreaming it as part of that agenda. I do think that it has-
Q37 Chair: Is that the revenue funding?
Dr Lucas: Yes, they have managed to secure revenue funding from Objective 1 and basically to use that with the job agencies to provide it as part of a package to get people back into work. The transport has been just one part of a wider job creation package that has been funded through EU funding, both revenue and capital funding. There has been obviously changing conditions for that over the years, so that is not perhaps so readily available as it was. Both Merseytravel and Centro West Midlands have taken that approach in terms of working with jobcentres and seeing transport as part of the getting people back into work package that the local authorities were delivering together. I guess that is probably the clearest way that that has been taken up.
Q38 Simon Wright: Okay, thank you. With our emissions targets in mind, does talking about increasing accessibility to transport for some groups imply less travel from other groups if we are to continue to meet that challenge? If Government should aim to reduce travel, how should it approach that challenge?
Richard Hebditch: I think the key thing is about reducing the need to travel. The important thing is that accessibility means being able to get to employment, get to services and get to shops. It may be that people do not need to travel for such long distances; that is the key thing. The reliance that we have on cars to get around is particularly problematic, not just in terms of reducing carbon emissions but also in terms of having high fuel prices at the moment. I was talking about young people earlier, and that is a particular challenge for them-the cost of insurance and the cost of having a car. Measures to simply freeze fuel duty as a way of tackling that are not enough when you have the underlying push of higher oil prices. I think it is about providing options for people to get around, so it is making walking and cycling safer and making sure there are local facilities and local employment opportunities as well, but also in terms of public transport making sure there is a decent network of bus services or rail services and that fares are affordable. The pressure over the last two years has been on fares to increase. The latest figures from Wales, where there has been a lot of uncertainty about support for bus services-more so than in England-they have seen a 5% cut in people using bus services and a 10% rise in fares in one year. That is the kind of thing that makes it very difficult for people to have alternatives to simply using a car.
Dr Lucas: The lowest-income groups have seen the greatest rise in car ownership and use over the last five years. This is the lowest income quintile, so you are talking about people on quite basic incomes.
Professor Smith: The play between costs of driving and motoring are very interesting. We have figures that show that over the last 15 years, inflation in motoring has risen by 50%, whereas inflation in bus fares has risen by 100%. Over time, it is getting cheaper to go by car than it is by bus.
Professor Jones: Can I pick up on one or two things that you were asking about? The first one was about how central accessibility is to Government policy. As was said, there are good examples, but in many ways Government policy has focused on other areas. Nevertheless, there are secondary benefits: for example, the growing concern about obesity is trying to encourage people to take more physical exercise and go out more, perhaps to sport centres or whatever. In a sense, that policy in some small way is helping with some access to services. Similarly, I think some chief constables now are more focused on dealing with antisocial behaviour and things like that. That has come up to the fore politically, and again that has been a restriction for some people on going out and using bus services and so on. Other areas of policy that do not directly relate to this nevertheless can have a beneficial effect on helping with accessibility.
The second thing you raised, to stress a point that came out of the social exclusion work that is really important, is that there is for other reasons to do with traffic congestion, etc, a desire to encourage people to reduce travel, but there is a group of people for whom the problem is they do not get out enough, basically, or they do not go out of their local area. They do not easily get access to jobs or to good healthcare or whatever. There is that twin thing, as you were implying. As Richard said, getting around does not necessarily mean going in a car; it can be using a bus or rail service that has spare capacity, or it can be walking and cycling. Obviously, increasingly there are opportunities for using teleservices and the internet to enable you to get health advice or whatever, without necessarily travelling 30 miles to a major hospital or something like that. So I think there are possibilities.
Richard Hebditch: Also maybe it is worth adding that in terms of the very high levels of traffic that you have, it is actually those on lower incomes who are affected most by that. Lower income communities have much higher levels of air pollution, higher levels of road casualties and those kinds of things. They are the ones who simply by saying, "We need to help them to be able to get round by car more," are currently suffering more because of the current pattern of transport that we have.
Q39 Simon Wright: Thank you. The physical location of public services is a key determinant of their accessibility. I just wonder do we have enough relevant data to indicate to what extent rationalisation in the location of services over recent years has reduced accessibility to services.
Dr Lucas: No, I do not think we do have enough information or evidence. It is very difficult because the people who are rationalising those services are making arguments that that offers better quality and not at the same time looking at the distribution of that quality and for whom. It may well be that the idea is to be raising standards to offer specialised opportunities for young people to participate, but I think quite often it is the more middle-class students that maybe are benefiting from this and it is not actually raising standards among the kids that are struggling.
Q40 Simon Wright: Are there any tools to help work out the best balance between quality of service outcomes and their accessibility to the service?
Dr Lucas: I do not know of any. I could not say that I know of any. It does not mean that it is beyond the bounds of possibility to invent some, but I do not know of anybody that is going out there and doing that, looking at low standards versus increased-
Richard Hebditch: I guess there is quite a well-developed methodology for health economics as there is for transport economics, but they do not talk to each other in anything like the same system. It is a good example of where it is difficult for different sectors to find ways to talk to each other. Perhaps the search for the perfect methodology is not that useful. You might find such a perfect methodology, but it is not very useful for people, and it is just about making sure that decisions are taken in a transparent way: the evidence is there for people to make decisions, but not necessarily a perfect number that you can find that tells you what the perfect solution is. We see that a bit in transport in terms of benefit/cost ratios, where they are seen by some as being this perfect number that you can rely on, but they are very much open to interpretation. They very much depend on what figures you put into them and small variations can produce very different and dramatic results in an end benefit/cost ratio.
Dr Lucas: Knowing a little bit about the health sector and knowing that the people that tend to push up the specialisation are the people that deal with acute medicine, whereas the public health sector deal with health inequalities, those two have been warring factions for the entire history of the health service. You do have those fundamental issues that public health is quite a different thing, and health inequality is just a small part of even that.
Q41 Simon Wright: Do you think we need to do more to look at the impact on emissions of service rationalisation as well?
Dr Lucas: Yes. The fact that the climate change policy does not really even think about this somehow-the transport strategy for climate change essentially does not think about accessibility; it is entirely based on electric vehicles and technology.
Professor Jones: If I could pick up again on two points, the message is that at the local level some people are making real efforts and doing a very good job with accessibility planning, but it is very patchy. Certainly, I am aware that the Post Office did some work deciding which post offices to close to minimise problems, and certainly in London, looking at closing some magistrates’ courts, again work was done to look at what would be the locations where closure would cause least damage, but even that is only really focusing on how long it takes to get there. It is not taking account of all these other aspects of accessibility as well, so that is quite partial.
If I could just pick up on the last point, I think that is really quite crucial and it potentially opens an opportunity. If, for example, we are looking at the CO2 emissions of different sectors, at the moment, if I understand correctly, the Department of Health or Department of Education have targets to reduce CO2 emissions, but it is very much within the operations under their control. It does not take account of patients getting to their hospitals, etc. In the private sector, the World Business Council on Sustainable Development a few years ago came up with an auditing process for looking at CO2 emissions, which had three different scopes or tiers. The broadest tier actually included all upstream and downstream CO2 emissions of that particular organisation, including all transport associated with it. There is a protocol in the private sector for taking account of all the direct and indirect CO2 emissions of your operations. If that was applied here, so the health sector or the education sector had to take account of all the CO2 emissions of pupils getting to their classes in different colleges, whatever, I think that would help to change mindsets very much.
Chair: Some food for thought there.
Q42 Simon Wright: Final question; some services, for example those provided by DVLA, are increasingly moving online. How significant is that for increasing accessibility to services? What are the drawbacks? Are we creating new at-risk groups in that shift to online provision of service?
Professor Smith: When we talk about people accessing online services, often what they are talking about as using the internet is to facilitate their access to services rather than the internet delivering a service itself. That is probably its main use. It should not be seen as a major tool for addressing accessibility, because a lot of the time those journeys are going to be important, but it does minimise journeys. It allows people to be more effective and efficient in their journeys. Some examples would be that if somebody wants to purchase something, they are going to do the price checking online rather than on foot, but what people do when they buy things often still is that they will go and purchase the item in person. It is a simple example, but I think that it demonstrates that that is the key use of the internet.
Dr Lucas: Yes, but also the groups that do not get online, and the groups that do not access those services, tend to be the low-income vulnerable groups that equally do not access the services physically. It is not a replacement.
Professor Jones: Just on that, there are cases sometimes where people just do not have the opportunity. People who are relatively poor are usually renting accommodation. Quite often they have to move around because the landlord puts up rents and they cannot afford them, etc. I have come across several people who have said they have moved into a property that has been blacklisted by British Telecom or whatever because of previous problems there, so they cannot get internet access; they just will not be given it. So there are groups that just physically cannot get it. Also, there are people that do not have the skills or the awareness. We did some work a few years ago, which I mention in my evidence, in South Yorkshire where we interviewed a group of elderly people who were all very articulate, involved with the parish council, etc. Only two of them had heard about NHS Direct, which surprised me. You assume that everybody knew about that. It is about knowing it as well as having access, and it is surprising how at the bottom people do not have access to basic things or bank accounts, whatever, so they cannot order online and pay by credit card because they do not have a credit card. There are people that in a sense are being multiply excluded as we start moving into these technologies. On the other hand, one could talk about maybe having local centres, whether it is Post Offices or library, where these facilities are available and there is help to use them. That might help to raise people up. It is all a question of how we use the technology.
Chair: I think Peter Aldous is going to take us along that line.
Q43 Peter Aldous: Just picking up on that, part of the Government’s policy for rolling out superfast broadband through BDUK is geared towards getting to inaccessible geographical areas. If you look at their policy towards social care, the policy is very much more care in the home. The internet and broadband and superfast broadband are supposed to be playing a very important role in delivering those services. Are you saying that the Government are going up a blind alley, or perhaps there is a role they have to do in raising awareness to people of the role that the internet and broadband can play for them?
Professor Jones: I suppose I think it is a good idea. I think in many ways it will benefit businesses, particularly those in a number of types of businesses who need the superfast broadband connections. Obviously, there is potential for using that for people being able to go to a local GP and getting diagnosis remotely from a specialist in a hospital, etc. I think there are benefits there, but for individuals there is still a question of training for some people. There is the fact of exclusion, as I say, that people cannot get a line into their home because the home is blacklisted. There will be people for various reasons for whom it is very difficult-
Q44 Peter Aldous: Forgive me. This blacklisting: what does it involve?
Professor Jones: It is just that if you move into a rented property and there is a history in that rented property of previous tenants not paying their telephone bills or electricity bills, whatever, then you either are told that you cannot have a line installed by an operator or you have to go into an expensive fee tariff because the history of previous tenants is that they have not paid. In a sense, you are penalised for a history of previous tenants.
Q45 Peter Aldous: That is something we probably have to take up with-
Professor Jones: Well, it is an issue that perhaps is not that fully recognised, but is a problem for some people.
Dr Lucas: Quite a lot of work that has been done on the substitution of journeys by ICT, within America particularly-Pat Mokhtarian is working in America-and this shows that really it is not a substitute, that what happens is that people use it alongside. People who work at home use ICT. Home workers go out and substitute and do other sorts of travel. Maybe there is something to suggest that within all of us there is a need to be out there and be a social beast. We have not really hit upon the social attributes.
There are a few things about social isolation in older age. Lots of older people go out, and they just need to go out and travel, be around, because that gives them the interaction that they need. The same with healthcare services: a lot of old people want to go and speak to their doctor face to face. If what happens, as in my town, that they have now concentrated all of the doctors’ GP surgeries in one place on the edge of town-a brand new, fantastic facility, but no bus services to get there-then they are not able to have that face to face care with their GP. So driving up services in one way may well be driving down provision for some more vulnerable clients in another. I do not think it is an either/or. Of course ICT is going to be there. No, it is not a waste of money. Of course we need to do the best we can, but there will always be these groups that maybe are negatively affected or fall through the cracks.
Professor Smith: I would just add, though, that the remarkable saturation of the internet has also brought a massive decrease in costs. As internet access becomes more and more an established norm of basic living standards, I think that the number of households without internet access, irrespective of income, will become very, very small very quickly.
Dr Lucas: Schools are encouraging children to have computers in the home. Internet access is part of the school.
Professor Smith: The cost has collapsed as well. We might have been having the same conversation about telephones at some point.
Q46 Peter Aldous: Yes, I will continue on the measuring of accessibility and how it is done, whether it can be done, and who should actually be doing it. The level of transport-related accessibility to services very often seems to be specific to individuals. I think my first question is how easy is it to aggregate it and measure accessibility in aggregate terms at either a local or a national level.
Dr Lucas: Place-based accessibility, actually, aggregate accessibility, is the easiest thing to do. It is what accessibility planning did here. It was not on an individual basis. You took a point at the middle of a lower super-output area, a census area, and you then measured access to key locations. It was destination origin-based. That measure is possible. It has its problems, because different people within that area will experience different accessibility depending on their walking speeds, their needs, their costs, affordability and all sorts of other things. If what you are doing is just looking at journey times from one point to another, you can do that; that is not a problem. The problem is that transport is not necessarily the main driver of that accessibility. For example, with some of the national indicators for accessibility the biggest driver of them in the wrong direction was a major employer closing down. Suddenly access to jobs goes way downhill because the jobs are not there any more. The control, therefore, on the accessibility is not the transport; the control is the provision of the jobs. How you control a business closing-well, we would all be magicians if we could do that, wouldn’t we? That is a different area. The trick is not in measuring it; it is in controlling the measurement and moving it in the right direction.
Professor Jones: Can I just pick up on that? Yes, I think it is perhaps fair to say that in the type of accessibility you mentioned, origin-destination accessibility to particular services for particular groups, we have probably got the best dataset in the world on that. That is updated annually, and it is a very comprehensive dataset. It is very impressive, and it has its value. The thing is, though, if we are talking about the problems people experience in everyday life, that is not always sufficient. For example, we have come across a number of people who said that they cannot get a job if they do not have a car because the employer will not give them a job. They do not give that as the reason, but it is well known that unless you have a car you will not get employed because the buses are not reliable and, therefore, you will not become a reliable worker. So there is a sort of stigma attached to that. Or cases, which I mention in the evidence, in villages some distance from Sheffield where 16 to 18-year-olds went into Sheffield College for education: they were getting an educational maintenance allowance at the time, but often the buses were delayed or cancelled. They lost their allowance because they did not get there on time. The bus company said, "Sorry, we did what we could. It is not our fault," and the educational authority said, "Sorry, they are our rules. It is not our fault." It clearly was not the kids’ fault, but nevertheless they were the ones that got penalised. That sort of thing does not get picked up in these measures obviously but can be very important for families.
Richard Hebditch: I think London is quite interesting as well, because they have both the public transport and disability levels and access to transport and services, which I think is quite an interesting approach to have. They look at accessibility and it has proved quite useful. As Peter was saying, issues around affordability, those kinds of things, are not really picked up in the origin destination.
Dr Lucas: Exposure to crime.
Richard Hebditch: Yes.
Q47 Peter Aldous: Is Transport for London an exemplar that might be rolled out?
Richard Hebditch: It is generally an exemplar. I think it benefits from levels of funding that other local transport authorities dream of, so it can generally do things that other local transport authorities cannot. It is very much an evidence-based approach to how they plan their transport system, particularly in terms of bus services as well.
Dr Lucas: Although I think some of the local authorities would feel that they do not actually have that much of a say. Sometimes I think Transport for London is sometimes seen as a bit of a top-down beast that does not allow for enough localism, perhaps. It is not perfect, but good.
Q48 Peter Aldous: That is one way it could be improved to a better drilling down of the information?
Dr Lucas: Yes.
Professor Jones: Another quick example and something again that affects particular groups-those in wheelchairs or those with buggies or shopping trolleys, whatever-is the fact that obviously there is limited space on buses for that provision. Quite often people will say that they missed a doctor appointment or something because they could not get on the bus with their buggy with their young kids because it was already full. We do not measure that at all. London has very good measures of excess waiting time, but it is always on the assumption that you can get on the first bus when it comes. I do not think anybody has ever measured the extent to which particular groups are disadvantaged because they miss it. Particularly in a rural area if you have an hourly or half-hourly bus service, you can have a long wait to get on the next one. We have done no measure of that-
Q49 Chair: Would you like to add something in respect of the Department for Transport’s local sustainability fund, I think it is, in respect of railways? Because one of the issues certainly that I have come across is that we still have many railway stations with steps that wheelchair users and buggy users cannot get up and down. The amount of money that is there for adaptation is minuscule compared to the need that there is to have railways accessible.
Professor Jones: Yes, I think that is really important. In a sense, the problem is recognised; it is just that it is not being funded. In this particular case, there is no measure whatsoever of the extent to which people cannot get on buses because the bus is already full. I have never seen any measure in London or anywhere that has measured that. For some groups, that is quite crucial.
Richard Hebditch: When you were saying about rail, rail could be part of the answer to ensuring accessibility, but there are particular problems with the extent to which concessionary fares are eligible on rail and the extent to which they are an alternative for people. In Cambridgeshire when they were looking at some of the cuts, they were thinking about, "Actually, there is a railway station here; it is a good service to Cambridge," but those who are most in need of bus services could not afford to take the train because it was more expensive and they could not use their concessionary passes on the train either.
Q50 Peter Aldous: If some of the aims of increasing accessibility are to increase participation in society and to help lift people out of poverty, how is that measured? Are we doing that properly?
Dr Lucas: No, I do not think we are and I think that is exactly what we need. We need to have the measures that are not about journey time savings but are about increased participation. If what you want to do is measure increased participation, you need to measure what you value. Journey time savings are not the point, increased mobility is not the point, and accessibility per se is not the point. It is about the number of people that are now able to access a job who could not before. It is about the number of people who can now get to a health service who could not before; the number of young teenage women who can get to a family planning clinic who could not get there before. That is what my earlier point was. It is not just about equality of opportunity. It is about equality of outcome. It is about measuring outcomes-not just the opportunity to get there but whether people are and, if they are not, why not, and then try to go back and adjust that thing. Unless you have it driven by health goals, education goals, crime goals, welfare goals, it will not work.
Richard Hebditch: There is a distributional analysis within the way DfT appraise projects, but I do not think it is taken that seriously within the whole process. It does come down to the benefit/cost ratios ultimately and journey time savings, but there is also an issue in terms of what transport scheme is proposed in the first place for funding. With a bias towards capital funding the kinds of schemes that we have been talking about would not necessarily qualify for that. There might be a capital element to it, but part of sustaining it is about making sure there is revenue spending to support it. That is the difficulty. If you are not getting the schemes in the first place through the system, it is difficult then to be taken seriously and start to change the system as well.
Professor Jones: Can I just reinforce what has been said? I think it is really quite important to stress that accessibility, however it is measured, is not measuring what people do, but is measuring the opportunity that people have to do something. Therefore, the effectiveness of policy is not through a measure of improved accessibility, but is what people do with it-whether they do manage to get to hospital on time, etc. On the transport side, our measures of mobility-things like trip rates, trip lengths-are completely useless because we do not know whether we want more or less. Higher trip rate might mean people are going out more. It might mean the area is not safe so they have to escort their children everywhere. Longer travel might mean opportunities to get to better jobs. It might mean they have closed the local hospital so you have no choice. Our mobility measures do not really tell you anything. It is this participation that is really what you need to get at.
Chair: I am very conscious of time, so I am going to move to Katy Clark, if I may, for our last question.
Q51 Katy Clark: You have raised all sorts of issues this afternoon. Is there anything perhaps that you have not spoken about that you think is important? Are there any other fundamental reforms in particular to the way that central Government departments operate that need to be taken forward or particular policies that perhaps you have not had a chance to focus on already that you think we need to be aware of as a Committee?
Richard Hebditch: If I could start, because we tend to be quite bolshie about most things, so we probably have lots to say. In the Department for Transport I think there is an issue about how much it is about transport users rather than just being about transport modes. Overall, it is the combination of the appraisal framework, the combination of the types of funding that is on offer, the combination of the fact that it is very focused on particular modes of transport rather than what it is like for users. Trying to change the Department around, I think, is a big challenge. Justine Greening, when she was Secretary of State, was very interested in that. That was the first time, I think, for many years that a Secretary of State had shown that kind of interest. It is about trying to demonstrate that through perhaps the National Transport Strategy that is due in the autumn, but through other policies as well. It is about how you are helping the users. That might be in terms of the accessibility like we have been talking about or it might be users in terms of businesses and things and putting them at the heart of transport policy, not having it based on journey time savings, not having the funding going towards particular modes of transport, and not having a bias towards capital funding at the expense of revenue funding.
Dr Lucas: I think my final issue would just be that there is a huge raft of social cultural activities that we have not discussed at all, all of which happen usually in the evenings and the weekends, which at the moment are very poorly served by access other than the car. That is a major issue, and we have to try to make the links between that, social capital, isolation in older age, educational awareness raising, and all those sorts of issues. There is a big social agenda here outside of just employment, education and health that we have not thought about.
Professor Smith: My last word would be to say that accessibility is as important as ever, if not more important. We have to recognise that there are real problems about the lack of evidence. I cannot say that clearly enough, just bold, out there.
The other thing I would say is I suppose a comment on the Department for Transport’s role going forward. With the accessibility evaluation, the Department for Transport asked me to think about the future of accessibility planning policy and the DfT’s role in that. My proposal there is to recognise that accessibility really works very well within a localism agenda, but I think there is an opportunity here for the DfT to be an exemplar of central Government working with local areas in the context of localism. There is a real need for driving through the cross-agency, cross-Government-
Q52 Chair: Why do they need to do that? Can’t they just say it is a matter for the local authority?
Professor Smith: Part of the ambiguity that is happening within the Department now is about localism. I think that relationship has changed, but that does not mean that the Department for Transport loses its role there. I think its role definitely moves from one about saying, as in the Making the Connections report, that the Department for Transport should have a responsibility for negotiating and co-ordinating accessibility planning on the ground to one where it has some distinct roles. One is about I suppose championing the concept of accessibility but I think also in terms of doing the work at central Government level with other Government departments, because that work is absolutely essential for there to be cross-agency work on the ground and also to have a central role in the co-ordinating of best practice and the problems that are experienced at the local level. What is happening at the moment is without that central co-ordinating role lots of activity is happening in small pockets, and I think that is a waste that is untenable in the conditions that we live in. If the DfT was to take that central role forward, it would be really important to say that that needs to be working with a forum of local partners and local agencies. I think that is the only way to take that forward.
Professor Jones: Two points if I may. First of all, when money is tight and agencies have to cut back, they define their core role and focus their resources on their core role. They externalise things that they would have done before as not being their core responsibility. Lots of things become external costs-this happens in the private sector as well-but they fall somewhere. They do not just disappear. I think that is really crucial to understand where they are falling and whether it is more cost-effective to give the Department more money to avoid those external costs.
Secondly, in a way linked to this, I think the most fundamental problems are silos within and between Government departments. I think if one really wanted to fundamentally tackle this, one needs to come across incentive structures that run across departments. There are two we have touched on today. One would be to say that where the public sector as a whole has a responsibility for providing a transport service, whether it is school transport or whatever, that budget resides with the organisation that stimulates that demand. It is the Education Department that has the travel budget, the Health Department, etc, so they take account of the costs of that as part of their decision. Or, as I said in relation to CO2, if you went for Scope 3 CO2 so that the health sector had to take the responsibility for the CO2 generated by all its activities, including travel, that is the sort of thing I think that would help to break down some of these barriers.
Chair: Okay. I think that brings us to a close. I would like to thank all four of you. I think we have a large agenda, this was our first session, and it is not really an issue that is on everyone’s agenda at the moment. We hope that what we have heard today will lead to our future deliberations, so thank you very much indeed.