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£70,000 budget cut will hit the elderly
A PROPOSAL to cut a further £70,000 from the community transport budget will impact the elderly and disabled in the town, opposition politicians have said.
In the budget proposals for 2013/14, Swindon Council suggested a reduction in the community transport subsidy of around £70,000 as the contract for the service, currently held by Swindon Dial A Ride, has gone out to tender for renewal this autumn.
The charity currently receives funding from the council of more than £286,000 a year, supplemented by fundraising efforts, and has between 15 and 25 volunteers on its books at any one time.
The service suffered a blow in 2010 when the Tory administration put the contract for services out to tender, resulting in a £50,000 drop in the council’s subsidy.
The Labour Group claim several key Dial A Ride services will be hit by the cuts, including group transport hire used to transport disabled groups to events such as Swindon Town matches, the Dial A Ride Access Car used to pick up people in difficult to reach areas, training for drivers and the Shopperbus.
But Coun Keith Williams, cabinet member for transport, said the tendering process ensured providers offered competitive services and the core part of Dial A Ride.
Labour leader, Coun Jim Grant, said: “Not only are the Conservatives proposing to cut the Dial A Ride service by £70K, but it would appear they are looking to flog the service off to another transport provider.
“What this Conservative administration fails to understand is that Swindon Dial A Ride is a hugely valued service, and prevents Swindon’s elderly and disabled feeling isolated.
“And with the cuts they are proposing to make to Swindon’s mainstream bus services, the demand for the Dial A Ride service from our town’s elderly and disabled people is only going increase. It would be wrong to leave these people isolated from society.
“I have had the pleasure of meeting many of the Dial A Ride staff and they do such a brilliant job, I do not think another transport provider could do as good a job as Swindon Dial A Ride does.”
But Coun Williams said: “To say we are killing off Dial A Ride is the Labour group playing politics and preying on people’s fear. It is a valuable service and it will continue but we are saying we think there are savings that can be made. For example, the car to take people outside Swindon or mini-bus training for Scout groups – we are asking should the council should pay for those.
“We have split it into two parts, with the core service not being impacted by these savings.”
One user, Bridget Coady, who suffers severe arthritis and cellulitis, said she relied on the service to get out and around town. The 69-year-old said: “I’d be sunk without it. I use it every day to get out of the house and do my shopping. I started using it seven years ago and before that I was using taxis, which cost me £12 a day – it was crippling me.
“I don’t know what I would do if they cut it. It’s wrong that they try to do this to people who cannot get about.”