Park & Ride: Lib Dems 'call in' decision to scrap Arriva service
Tuesday 14th December 2021
AN ATTEMPT to call into question a decision to scrap Maidstone's Park & Ride will be held by the borough council three days before Christmas - in secret.
Earlier this month, Maidstone Borough Council (MBC) decided to refuse to pay bus company Arriva, which now runs the scheme, an increased subsidy to keep it going.
This means the services from Willington Street and Allington will stop altogether in February next year unless a new partner can be found.
Arriva wanted £200,000 more than the £160,000 annual subsidy MBC currently provides to run the sites, claiming it is operating below break-even.
The council became twitchy because extra payments could be contrary to strict public contracts regulations.
Whilst MBC could have offered £100,000 from a COVID-19 recovery pot, it could not have offered any more of its own funds without potentially infringing the tendering agreement under which Arriva was taken on as the operator.
The decision made on December 7 by the strategic, planning and infrastructure (SPI) committee has been challenged by Liberal Democrat councillors Brian Clark, Derek Mortimer and Cynthia Robertson.
Daily Downs Mail has asked MBC why the meeting on December 22 is to be held in secret. There has been no response.
Lib Dem leader Cllr Clive English said: "Although national grant funding is uncertain after April, with passenger numbers increasing it is likely council support would only be needed in the short term."
An MBC statement sent out this evening said: "Maidstone Borough Council has announced that an extraordinary meeting of the policy and resources committee has been scheduled for Wednesday, December 22, to take place from 6.30 pm.
"This is following the receipt of a ‘call-in’ request which relates to the Maidstone Park & Ride Service decision taken by the MBC strategic planning and infrastructure committee on December 7, 2021."
In a statement released on December 9, SPI committee chairman Cllr Paul Cooper said: “We know that there has been a modest increase in the number of people using the service as lockdown restrictions initially lifted however, passengers have not returned to use the service and numbers have not met pre-pandemic levels which has made it very difficult for Arriva.
“We understand how hard it has been for any business trying to survive in these very unusual circumstances and one which none of us could have predicted. The Council has facilitated the Park and Ride service as much as we possibly could prior to and throughout Covid but understands why Arriva has made the decision to withdraw the service.”
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