COMMUNITY transport groups have been left in limbo over the future of services after a national row has called into question rural transport services.

Wiltshire Council say it will continue to do business with voluntary services taking people to hospital appointments, schools runs and social care visits, despite uncertainty over the future of its contracts.

Local councils are waiting to see if a ruling is made to force all community transport schemes, that currently benefit from a special permit, to make volunteer drivers be reclassified as commercial drivers.

The decade long row erupted after commercial bus companies complained to the European Commission that large voluntary community transport groups were stealing away business and exploiting the benefits on offer in other parts of the country.

Bus companies in these areas want to see large community groups held to the same licensing standards as them.

A judicial review is being held to determine what central government defines as a commercial vehicle.

Vice chair of the Environment Select Committee, Cllr Bob Jones said: “These services, especially for rural communities like Wiltshire, are a lifeline and it would have a massive impact if the judicial review goes the wrong way and rules that these school and community buses are commercial vehicles.

“It is a complicated issue and I was only made aware when a local group had their licence up for renewal and was told there was some uncertainty surrounding it.”

Jason Salter, head of service for passenger transport at Wiltshire Council, said: “Until it is played out in court this will continue in limbo at this moment in time. While the Department for Transport awaits the ruling on the definition, it will be premature to withhold contracts. We’ve taken the stance continue to do business with home to school and social care transport until we get that definition.”

In Wiltshire, 22 Community Transport services run on a grant basis in what has been described as a vibrant community transport sector.