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  1. This is a short update on the Board’s meeting on 20 April.

    Services

    There is very little prospect of services resuming in the near future, we’ll let you know immediately if that changes. One thing to report, the Community Transport Association contacted us to see if we were interested in providing an on-request service hospital transport service. We decided that, apart from the risks to drivers, we didn’t have the infrastructure to organise such a service in the way that was required. We took the view that there are a number of existing hospital transport services, as well as numerous local Covid-19 support groups, and so we felt that if a volunteer wanted to help with hospital transport, it would be better if they did it through their local support group.

    Cashless payments

    As I reported last time, we’re keen to move away from cash, and the current crisis seems to be getting society there faster than ever. We’re currently looking at two different systems for contactless card transactions: SUMUP, which appears to be the cheapest to operate but doesn’t work when there is no phone signal, and GoodBox, which is focused on the charity sector and is more expensive to operate but can process payments without a phone signal. We’re still looking at the practical and technical implications of both at the moment, but it’s possible that we will have a system in operation by the time we resume our services. 

    Funding

    Last time I reported that the Lottery had extended our grant and that we had applied for a Bus Service Operator Grant (BSOG) from Cumbria County Council. We’re still waiting to hear about the Council grant – as they require confirmation from government of the overall grant for Cumbria before they make individual awards. I will be speaking to the Lottery next week about how we might use the £11,370 we have for this financial year. 

    Operations Manager

    The Board has agreed a job description and person specification for this new role, an element of which will be to help secure WDB’s sustainability. Our hope is that we will be able to use some of the Lottery funding mentioned above to help us with the employment of an Operations Manager. However, we agreed that we cannot proceed with recruitment while the lockdown conditions remain in place

    Keep in touch

    If you have questions or ideas about any of the above issues or anything else, particularly if you’d like to feed something into the next board meeting on May 18th, please email me. 

    All the best and stay safe.

    Neil

    [email protected]

  2. On behalf of the board, I hope you and your family are keeping safe and well at this difficult time for all of us. The entire board really appreciate all you do individually and collectively for Western Dales Bus and the people and communities we serve. 

    As you will have seen from Liz’s memo the other day, the volunteers meeting scheduled for 6 April obviously cannot go ahead. Instead, we thought we’d keep you updated by email for the time being – I will also put this on the volunteers’ section of the website. The board met online the other day – we’ve all become Zoom experts overnight – and we surprised ourselves with how well it went. So well, in fact, that we will be repeating the exercise for our next scheduled meeting on 20 April.

    What follows is an update from our meeting on Thursday 26 March and a roundup of where things stand.

    Services

    You will be aware that all our services have been suspended until further notice as we could not safely implement the government advice about social distancing in our buses. Since the suspension it has become very clear that we should not be encouraging people to travel at all for the time being. 

    We will continue to keep the situation under review, but there is little prospect of a return to normal any time soon. The schedules on Rotaville are being cleared and Liz or Linda will be in touch as soon as there is a prospect of a resumption in our services.

    Vehicles

    At the moment WD3 is at the body shop awaiting repairs. Although the body shop is, unsurprisingly, not operating at present, we decided to leave the bus there to avoid unnecessary journeys and to ensure it’s there when the body shop resumes operation. Once the body work is completed, WD3 will need to go to K&S for mechanical repairs. 

    WD1 is parked in its usual spot in Loftus Hill car park and Martin Stockdale has kindly offered to take it for an occasional run to ensure the battery is charged and to keep the bus in working order. 

    Although not possible at the moment, we would like to give both buses a thorough clean, inside and out before they go back into service, if possible. As soon as the current restrictions are eased and it is deemed safe to do so, Liz or Linda will be in touch to ask for volunteers to assist with this.

    Funding

    We recently applied for two grants. We have been awarded and received an additional £11,370 from the Lottery, which extends our existing grant until March 2021. Cumbria County Council invited us to apply for a Bus Service Operators Grant and we are still waiting to hear if our application for £15,000 has been successful. Both are fairly flexible, and we will be considering the detail of how we might allocate these funds at our next meeting on 20 April.

    Cash Handling

    At our meeting last week, directors agreed that we would like to move to a cashless system. We agreed to explore potential systems that could work alongside our Ticketer machines. We will also look at whether we might allocate some of the funding outlined above to help implement a new system.

    Looking to the future

    The board were unanimous in their commitment to the future of Western Dales Bus, primarily by reinstating our services when the current restrictions are lifted. That is why we also agreed to appoint a paid Operations Manager to take over when Jock steps down from this role at the end of the year. We have explored the possibility of a joint post with Sedbergh Information Centre, effectively combining two part-time posts, as they were recruiting a new manager. The Information Centre has now appointed someone, so this is no longer possible, but we agreed to explore the potential for closer working between our two organisations.

    We plan to discuss a job description and person specification for the Operations Manager role at our next meeting, although any recruitment process may have to wait for the general situation to improve. 

    Keep in touch

    Directors are all really keen to keep in touch with all our volunteers, so we’d love to hear from you. If you have questions or ideas about any of the above issues or anything else, particularly if you’d like to feed something into the next board meeting, please email me. 

    All the best and stay safe.

    Neil Cleeveley

    [email protected]