A shift for Community Transport admin – Q & A

The Board of Coffs Harbour, Bellingen & Nambucca Community Transport (CBNCT) will relocate administration services currently situated in Bellingen to Macksville.

The news was greeted with uproar on social media with many concerned about the impact this would have on the ground.

CBNCT CEO Bethany Simmonds explained:

“The relocation of administration means that rather than spending money on rent (which does not stay in Bellingen), we will be able to actually increase services to the local community,” she said.

“Our concern at the moment is that the assumptions being made on social media will frighten our vulnerable transport-disadvantaged clients who may think that the service is being closed. This is definitely not the case.

“Clients should not be anxious as community transport will be there to pick them up and take them wherever they need – as has been the case for over 20 years.

“We hope to be here for another 20 years and more, and to do this we need to direct our money carefully into service, rather than overheads.”

Ms Simmonds said relocating the Bellingen administration office and staff will “save our not-for-profit organisation a large amount of money in rent and overheads per year”.

“CBNCT will be able to use this money to further invest in extra services and increased paid driver hours to provide a better service to the Bellingen community,” she said.

“Not only will services remain the same, there will be additional services planned for the Bellingen area in the near future. 

“This will include a mobile office, which will allow face-to-face contact with the community and other towns within the Shire.”

In response to concerns about local jobs, Ms Simmonds said “we have worked closely with all our staff to ensure they understand the reasons behind the move”. 

“All staff will keep their current positions within the organisation if they choose.

“We also value and respect the work that all our volunteers do in our organisation and hope that all our volunteers from Bellingen will remain with us to keep servicing the community.”

The new combined office at Macksville will now be known as the Southern Office of Coffs Harbour, Bellingen & Nambucca Community Transport.

The Courier-Sun understands some staff members are considering leaving CBNCT.

Relocation of Community Transport Administration: Questions and Answers

1. Why is CBNCT relocating its administration from Bellingen to Macksville?

The decision to relocate administration has been made in relation to future funding uncertainty.

The federal government has planned to change funding for services such as ours for people who are frail and aged. In order to ensure that we are able to continue our essential services for many years into the future, we need to prepare for a withdrawal of government funding.

This means that we must reduce our ‘back end’ costs such as rent and put that saving into more direct services. Our main aim is to continue the wonderful service, and hopefully increase services to Bellingen and other communities.

CBNCT is a not-for-profit organisation, which services three local government areas: Coffs Harbour, Bellingen and Nambucca. Our clients are the elderly, people living with a disability, the Aboriginal population, and people who are financially disadvantaged.

We have to keep in mind that we are providing a service for all communities in our area. Saving money on rent and overheads in one office will allow us to expand and grow services that will directly benefit all communities.

2. What about commercial hiring of vehicles, would that help to maintain services in Bellingen?

CBNCT has been hiring out our vehicles on a commercial basis for many years, in each of its local government areas. This does help us to increase operational cashflow but will not recoup the substantial amount of money we lose in rent and overheads at the Bellingen office.

3. Would it help if we talk to our local member or lobby the NSW or federal governments?

CBNCT is funded by both the NSW and federal governments. They provide funding for the three local government areas we provide services too. Funding is based on the amount of trips that we provide to clients – essentially funding will not be more forthcoming unless more people access our service.

We have to use the money allocated as wisely as we can. CBNCT has not been sold off as a commercial enterprise as some Facebook postings are suggesting.

4. Who will I call to make a booking?

All our Bellingen clients will ring the central number 1300 812 504, which has not changed. Clients will have to then have choose ‘option two’ to contact the southern office. You may, or may not, know some of our staff based at Macksville yet, but they are very friendly and willing to help you with your booking or inquiry.

5. What about the staff at Bellingen?

Our Bellingen staff members have done a wonderful job for the local community, and all staff have been guaranteed their jobs. There are three administration staff members and one paid driver.

All staff work on a part-time basis. CBNCT held consultation meetings with staff about the proposed change, many months before the official announcement.

Staff have access to a free counselling service and have been encouraged to provide feedback, suggestions, and to seek their own independent advice. We certainly hope that they continue their fantastic work with us so that our clients will continue to have access to their favourite community transport coordinators.

6. What other services will Community Transport be able to provide to Bellingen?

We will be able to significantly increase paid driver hours in the Bellingen community. A new regular shuttle service from Bellingen to Coffs Harbour will be trialled, and a new Join-Book-Drive scheme will be introduced to make hiring and using our vehicles easier for local community groups.

We will also be providing a mobile office to give the community face-to-face service. This mobile office will be able to be used in other communities that do not have, nor have ever had, a face-to-face service.

7. Is CBNCT run by Bellingen Shire Council?

No, while we respect and develop relationships with Bellingen Shire Council, we are in no way funded by the council and our funding has no impact on road maintenance in the Shire.

8. What about volunteer drivers in Bellingen?

We value and love our volunteers and respect the hours that our volunteer drivers contribute in Bellingen and all our local government areas. We are the first to say that without their contribution our service would not operate.

We understand that some drivers located in Bellingen will think about leaving our service. However, we will still be servicing the Bellingen community as always – our client base in Bellingen is more than likely to increase, and our drivers will still have face-to-face contact with Bellingen locals. Vehicles will remain in the local area and volunteers will not have to travel to Coffs Harbour or to Macksville to pick up vehicles.

9. Are you relocating the office to Macksville because you can’t find a place to park Bellingen cars?

The office at Macksville has been operating for many years. It is well known that we have been looking for a suitable place to park the cars operating out of Bellingen. However, at this stage we cannot locate a space for this and even if we did, it would be a significant cost and time to us to build a custom-built facility.

10. How can you manage Bellingen bookings from Macksville?

Our new technology, Routematch, is designed to book-in and designate drivers for trips anywhere, at any time. In fact, it works at its maximum efficiency if our three local governments areas are combined.

The technology also provides a GPS for drivers to navigate directly to client’s homes.

We hope we have answered some of the questions that have been posted on community groups on Facebook. We understand that the Bellingen community is alarmed at the change, but we would appreciate your patience and understanding that we have all communities and clients in mind when we made this decision.

We especially want our clients to know that the service will continue, and that we are looking forward to when they next travel with us.

If you have any questions, call 1300 812 504 or email info@communitytransport.net.au