As we ease out of lockdown it is heartening to see that the district recorded zero covid fatalities in the previous three weeks (No covid deaths in three weeks as lockdown eases, Gazette, 1st April 2021, p12). It is also encouraging that we can start to see a few more people outside and reconnect with loved ones. We all want to move back to normality as soon as is safe, but residents are telling me of their concerns about possible setbacks.
So, it was good to hear that through technology we can start to safely open up our high street. The Locale app sounds like a great way to help to begin the regeneration of the local economy whilst alleviating residents’ health concerns (App to help ease fears as lockdown is eased, Gazette, 1st April 2021, p26)
Kent County Council and Canterbury City Council have a massive part to play. They must come together to find ways to help local businesses and create jobs that also address health and environmental concerns.
If the eminent business forecaster Professor Richard Scase is right, and retail parks become a thing of the past (Retail parks could be gone in a decade, Gazette, 1st April 2021, p14), then the high street must grasp the opportunity to attract more visitors. This can only be done if KCC and CCC learn to adapt to a post-covid shopping experience. More attractions need to open up, and it’s great to hear that after two decades a new hotel will open in the location of the old Slatters hotel (Hotel to finally open more than 20 years after Slatters closed, Gazette, 1st April 2021, p5) – the restaurant sounds like a great space to relax. However, with more people visiting, our councils must anticipate what is needed to help our city flourish. A more affordable bus service, interconnected cycle routes that allow commuting, secure bike lockers, places to change out of bike gear with bike service stations, and more electric car charging points are all needed. All of this is necessary to combat predicted congestion and to improve air quality, it is this type of joined-up thinking that both KCC and CCC need to engage in.
Let’s boost the local economy but take note of the rightful concerns our local residents share.
Labour and Co-operative Candidate for Canterbury City North
Local buses provide a lifeline for communities missed off the map of the commercial providers – ensuring people have an affordable way to travel to school, work, the shops, local amenities and vital services. The services we rely on have been tested to their limits through this crisis, with reduced passenger numbers and increased health and safety burdens.
Councils can support communities to set up their own people’s bus service in areas underserved by the big for-profit providers and review planning and procurement strategies to ensure community transport gets a fair treatment.
On the doorstep I here two consistent messages:
- Free Bus Travel
Why are parents and carers having to pay for the child’s school bus pass.? Currently a bus pass for a school child is £360 per a year plus a £10 administration fee. For some families this is just too much out of their budget, especially if there is more than one child in the family.
Our children’s education is what we pay for in our council tax and income tax . Getting our children to school is paramount to their education , why are we having to pay on top of this.
2. Public transport
We want to support local residents needs and not the profit of bus operators in rural and residential areas.
The bus service in Kent needs a complete overhaul. Although it serves a function, bus services do not offer an all-in affordable, accessible, practical and useful alternative to incentivise people to use the bus.
Currently, it is set up to suit the profits of the bus companies and shareholders and not the needs of our residents.
So many people I talk to say that they would like to use the bus but when they add it up, it works out more convenient and cheaper to drive.
How can we ask people to choose travelling by public transport, if it is not the better option?
Bus services should be easy, cheap, accessible and get you to where you need to go quickly and efficiently. People should be able to hop on and off easily.
We need to take control of the power, so that we can get the services we want by consulting with communities to find out what routes and services are beneficial to them.
Labour want to improve both of these things. We would
- lobby for a transport for London model of public transport management in Kent. This will ensure the system meets the needs of residents rather than private shareholders.
- seek to introduce means tested bus pass prescriptions for those under 65 deemed socially isolated, or that can demonstrate a need.
- review the timing restrictions on the over 65s bus pass.
- Make children’s travel free. Student bus passes will be free under a Labour administration; costs and inaccessibility of transport should not be a barrier to education.