“As the old adage goes “when the going gets tough, the tough get going” and as a CEO of a highly-regarded charity, I know that part of my role is to make tough decisions.
The Charity Commission’s guidance makes it very clear that when it comes to making decisions, my number one priority is to look after ECT Charity’s best interests. When making decisions to fulfil this duty, constantly worrying about how our beneficiaries and staff will be impacted makes these decisions all the more difficult to make – that’s when the going definitely gets tougher.
I vividly remember launching our Cornwall operation in the summer of 2014 as an outstation of our Dorset operation, managed by Tim Christian. The community was crying out for additional community transport resources and there was so much that we could offer. As a charity, our aim was to deliver home-to-school journeys for students with complex learning needs and disabilities which would support our charitable objectives and create social value for the local community. We were welcomed warmly by parents and the local authority alike, and were proud to be able to showcase our quality, standards and caring service.
The next natural step was to form a three-way partnership between Cornwall Council, First Kernow (the Cornish bus business that forms part of FirstGroup plc), and us (a charity that provides community transport in local communities).
The handshakes between partners at the stakeholder event in the summer of 2016 were full of promise for years to come. Our collective aim was to knit together big bus options with our flexible community transport solutions in order to provide innovative and joined-up transport solutions. This came at a time when Cornwall Council was looking for a more flexible and efficient use of financial and physical resources as part of its “One Transport for Cornwall” project.
Three years later, despite our best efforts, the partnership has not progressed in the way we envisaged and there has been little opportunity to create social value for the local community. And so I recently had to make the difficult recommendation to ECT’s Board of Trustees that ECT withdraw from Cornwall once its contracts with Cornwall Council terminated at the end of the summer term 2019, as well as not tendering for new contracts.
For five years, we have been proud to serve Pencalenick and Doubletrees schools. We are very grateful for the hard work of our fantastic team (pictured above): Kevin, Michelle, Paul, Sue, Glynis, Teresa and Kenny – with a special mention of Kevin who has been with us since the start! They have showed utmost professionalism and dedication at all times. And last but not least, none of our work in Cornwall would have been possible without Tim and his team in Dorset, demonstrating that an ‘outstation’ model can work just as effectively a further hundred miles down the road!
Our success and excellent reputation in Cornwall is testimony to the dedication and commitment of our teams. I am proud of what we accomplished in Cornwall and I know that Tim is very proud too. Our sincere thanks to all our Cornwall staff and very best wishes for the future.”
Anna Whitty MBE
Top image (from left to right): Alex Carter (Managing Director, First South West Ltd), Councillor Bert Biscoe (Portfolio Holder for Transport, Cornwall Council), Anna Whitty MBE (CEO, ECT Charity)