Agenda and minutes

Environment & Economy Select Committee - Monday, 4 September 2023 6.00pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Daneshill House, Danestrete, Stevenage

Contact: Lisa Jerome (01438) 242203  Email:

No. Item




Apologies for absence were received by Cllr Andy McGuinness and Baroness Taylor of Stevenage, OBE


There were no declarations of interest.



MINUTES - THURSDAY 6 JULY 2023 pdf icon PDF 140 KB

To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on Thursday 6 July 2023.


It was RESOLVED: That the Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 6 July 2023 be approved as a true record of the proceedings and be signed by the Chair.




Members are invited to interview receive the written response to questions and data requests and to carry out interviews with Michael Jennings, Area Head of Commercial, Arriva South.


Additional documents:


The Chair welcomed to the meeting Michael Jennings, Area Head of Commercial for Arriva South, and Alec Bright, Arriva Network Manager for Stevenage.


The Chair asked a range of questions which were answered by Mr Jennings and included:

·         Mr Jennings agreed that electric buses were the future.

·         The main reasons why Arriva withdrew from the ZEBRA scheme were the impact of Covid and the financial implications from it. During Covid bus patronage reduced by three quarters and it was decided that Arriva couldn’t invest into Stevenage. Instead they did invest into a new depot.

·         Unfortunately there was no option to delay the government grant, as it was a take it or leave it offer and at the time during Covid it was not financially viable to invest into Stevenage. He hoped that another government grant would be available.

·         He highlighted that they needed more support and needed to replace a large portion of the fleet which would require a lot of large capital investment at once.

·         The ZEBRA bid was quick in becoming available and needed to be submitted quickly with awards being made on a large scale to small areas.

·         Arriva had introduced electric buses in Leicester and London, but there were no electric fleets currently in the Southeast.

·         He acknowledged that there was a problem with the current service and delivery was below where it should be. He highlighted some causes for this.

·         Staffing had been a big issue not only in Stevenage but across Hertfordshire. They were now fully staffed in Stevenage and had increased pay rates to £16 per hour. They had also increased starter rates and used agencies to fill any gaps in staffing.

·         The depot site had been another issue. Previously they had been operating from two sites which was difficult to manage. Now they are operating from one site with the correct facilities.

·         Another issue had been engineering which they were still having issues with. The current fleet was older, they had issues with getting engineering staff, and there was a lack of parts which took time to come in. He highlighted that they had an action plan which still had some way to go but they were moving forward in the right direction.


A Member asked a question regarding the average percentage of services operated and suggested this was not in line with the public perception of what had been operated. Mr Jennings agreed that the perception was negative, but it was often worse that what was operated. The impact from traffic, lack of drivers, and issues with engineering all contribute to late services and although some services were late, they still ran. He stated that ideally, they wanted to run at least 99% of services.


A Member asked a question regarding the monthly data that had been provided. Mr Jennings advised that the variations in the monthly data was affected by various factors such as school holidays, bank holidays, or how many weekends there were in a certain month.


Another Member  ...  view the full minutes text for item 3.



To receive written responses to questions prepared for BUGS and to interview David Martin, Secretary of Bus User Group Stevenage.


The Chair welcomed to the meeting David Martin, Secretary of the Bus User Group Stevenage (BUGS).


The Chair invited Mr Martin to give an overview of the BUGS perception of the bus service across the years which included:


·         The issues the bus service experienced in 2017 are not different to the issues experienced today.

·         The Bus Service Act enhanced the partnership between Local Councils, County Councils, and operators. The interlink partnership was there before but had no real power with the County Council. 

·         Lots of issues affect the service such as lack of drivers, seasonal changes, or holidays during the summer.

·         The graphs provided from Arriva show operations from Stevenage depot, which included other longer routes out of Stevenage and generally run well. The graphs didn’t represent the shorter Stevenage services and didn’t reflect the complaints from residents about the local bus service.

·         The open data allowed anyone to look at specific services.

·         There were lots of services being dropped and the real time information wasn’t available to let people know it had been cancelled.


Some Members asked questions in relation to the bus times and scheduling. Mr Martin advised that operators had to register their services with the County Council, and it took, on average, 6 weeks to implement changes. The County Council tends to rely on commercial operators to give information about which routes they want to run, although they do have some control. For example, the SB8 route had been withdrawn, but Arriva ran an evening service under contract with Hertfordshire County Council (HCC).


A Member asked how often operators consult groups within Hertfordshire. Mr Martin advised that they generally didn’t. BUGs were consulted once by HCC once to develop passenger charter and bus service user plan. They didn’t consult on routes and services and any changes that have happened were through grassroots campaigns, For example in Hertsmere a community investment levy fund was used to restore the bus service.


Some Members asked questions relating to the data not comparing to the experience of local passengers, as well as app usage. Mr Martin advised that passengers would rather services that came. There were many issues such as buses breaking down when they overheat, or Arriva having to take on other services and routes which created more issues with lack of drivers. The Arriva app only looks at Arriva services and was useful to see the service generally however isn’t always accurate. There needed to be a multi operator zone ticket to improve service use.


A Member asked whether the improved depot would make a difference to the service and the issues it had. Mr Martin advised that the staff moral had improved with the new depot. The operations would also be better as there was an improvement in the communications and awareness.


A Member asked questions relating to the accessibility of the service. Mr Martin advised that accessibility was improving. All buses were required to have wheelchair access as a minimum. He added that the government had  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.



To consider the updated mapping document.


The Chair informed Members the next Environment and Economy Select Committee meeting would be held on the 10th of October and would also be centred around buses. They would invite Stevenage Borough Council Officers and groups from the community to attend. The Scrutiny Officer added they had confirmation from a group representing those with visual impairments and confirmation from the Irish Network.


It was RESOLVED: That the Committee noted the updated mapping document.




To consider any Part 1 business accepted by the Chair as urgent.


There was none.



To consider the following motions –


1.  That under Section 100(A) of the Local Government Act 1972, the press and public be excluded from the meeting for the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as described in paragraphs1 – 7 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as amended by Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006.


2.  That Members consider the reasons for the following reports being in Part II and determine whether or not maintaining the exemption from disclosure of the information contained therein outweighs the public interest in disclosure.



Not required.



To consider any Part II business accepted by the Chair as urgent.


There was none.