The Committee received a report of the Director of Workforce and Change regarding Travel Policy. The Head of Human Resources introduced the report with a detailed presentation and invited the Committee to provide views and observations on options to reform the Council’s Travel Policy.
Members were informed of the significant issues in the report which were –
1. The Council’s Travel Policy needed to be ambitious and reflect the requirements of the Corporate Strategy and One City Climate Strategy.
2. There would need to be changes to the Council’s travel policy from 2022, to reflect the impact of the Clean Air Zone on travel for work.
3. Consultation had taken place with trade unions and council employees over the Summer on proposals for reform
4. It was important to obtain the views of Members as the Travel Policy also applied to Members
In discussion and in response to Members questions the following points were raised:
1. Initial consultation had already taken place and it was planned that a revised Policy would be ready to implement from next April
2. Upon review, it was noted that there had been a reduction in travel spend related to Covid 19. Although there had been a recent increase in vehicle usage it was not as high as 19/20.
3. Records have shown that the workforce currently has 73.5% compliant vehicles and a percentage of non-compliant and unclassified vehicles.
4. GPS postcode mapping was able to identify where employees lived in relation to Bristol, defined as the ‘travel to work area’. Most staff live in those areas, with 60% living within the boundary of the city.
5. All employees are currently permitted to claim car milage for business travel where agreed by their line manager.
6. The average age of vehicles for staff using grey fleet is 8.5 years
7. With Continuing Professional Development (CPD) largely delivered online it is not anticipated that this will result in a negative impact for employees.
8. From the CAZ implementation date vehicles non-compliant after 1 year will be charged except blue badge holders, which was one of the original proposals that had been consulted upon.
9. Trade union colleagues had raised the concern that there is a balance between costs and convenience. It was confirmed that there would continue to be engagement with the Trade unions once there were revised proposals.
10. In some roles employees are required to have their own vehicle and it was of concern that 30% of vehicles were non-compliant. It was additionally of concern that staff could be required to incur significant expense to change to a compliant vehicle.
11. It was recognised that the transition could be challenging for some, but employees had a year to transition to a compliant vehicle which could be extended in extraordinary circumstances. In addition, the ages of the vehicles for compliancy were 2004 for petrol vehicles and 2016 for diesel vehicles.
12. It was noted that in Leeds a modal shift transpired to compliant vehicles after the announcement of a CAZ.
13. Members asked whether there should be consideration of a wider travel to work area where staff needed to make a lot of journeys to travel across the boundary. It was noted that the salary sacrifice scheme for bikes had been well used and a salary sacrifice or other appropriate scheme for cars was being considered.
14. A proposal to update the Pool car fleet arrangements needed to be developed to consider increased locations where staff may be able to pick up a car and to mitigate against the creation of perverse arrangements where a member of staff had to travel into the zone to collect a car only to travel out of the zone to carry out their work.
15. It was noted that air travel occurs from time to time
16. Members felt it was important to be clear about the transition period for staff and what alternatives could be made available eg use of pool cars or use of incentives
17. Members asked whether there had been any consultation with disability work groups as there would be adjustments required for those that do not qualify to be blue badge holders
18. The HR Business Partner confirmed that reasonable adjustments (including arrangements for car parking) were made at or near BCC workplaces wherever it was practicable to do so. It would be more difficult to support this type of arrangement further out of the city.
19. The complexity of the issue was recognised by Members. although it was clear that the aspiration was to reduce the usage of cars through provision of alternatives, there were still lots of barriers. CAZ, buses, walking were not yet embedded in the infrastructure. It was necessary to highlight the needs of social workers and health care workers who were essential car users.
20. Officers were talking to services such as the social care team directly to strike the right balance to efficiently manage the transition to new ways of working. It was clarified that Social care teams generally used their own vehicles rather than using fleet or pool vehicles.
21. It was noted that APSE had been grappling for some years with an imperative to eradicate the use of grey fleet and it may be useful for Officers to consider their experience on this issue. It was a priority to avoid hurting people that could least afford it and avoid hurting essential workers.
22. It was recognised that Bristol was at the vanguard again and the workforce change policy needed to fully consider the new ‘world’ with working from home and car clubs a new norm. There may be further opportunities to save the Council the cost of running a fleet and another half a million pounds grey fleet usage. For example, to consider how innovative borrowing of green bonds could be used to make savings.
23. There was an imperative to save money, but the policy proposals were also part of significant reforms to meet the city and council’s ambitions by 2030.
24. The use of grey fleet was identified as a risk area which a significant risk being around transporting service users in grey fleet vehicles.