A WAR is being waged against a proposal to cut £70,000 from Swindon Council’s community transport budget, which Labour says will impact on the Dial a Ride service.
In the budget proposals for 2013/14, the 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, went out to tender for renewal in the autumn.
The charity currently receives more than £286,000 a year from the council, supplemented by fundraising efforts, and has between 15 and 25 volunteers. The service is for any individual within the borough who is unable to use conventional public transport due to disability.
Coun Nadine Watts (Lab, Old Town) is bringing a motion to the next full council on Thursday which opposes the proposed budget cut.
She said: “I am moving this motion to ask the Conservative group to reconsider their proposal to cut the Dial a Ride service by £70,000. This will be a great opportunity for all councillors to discuss the impact the cut will have on the Dial a Ride service and to discuss the benefits of Swindon Dial a Ride running this service rather than another transport provider.
“This meeting will also be a great opportunity for Swindon Dial a Ride friends and users to come along and hear their councillors’ views.
“I am not persuaded that the cut the Conservative Group are proposing won’t have an impact on the service Dial a Ride currently provides. And, for me, no other transport provider could deliver the same quality of service to disabled and elderly users as Swindon Dial a Ride.”
Dial a Ride provides four core services, which include a pre-booking, door-to-door bus service, wheelchair accessible, around the borough, and a door-to-door taxi-type service, wheelchair accessible, to any location within mainland UK.
Additional services include group transport hire, where groups like the Scouts can hire a wheelchair accessible minibus, a wheelchair-accessible car for self-drive hire, as well as the provision of a free minibus driver awareness scheme to drivers wishing hire a vehicle.
Coun David Renard, deputy leader of the council, has denounced the motion as an irresponsible scare tactic to hide financial incompetence.
He said: “This motion is factually incorrect. The budget proposal is not to cut the Dial a Ride service; it affects only some ancillary services that could be provided commercially. The Labour opposition is playing the politics of fear by trying to scare people with things that are not going to happen.
“The Labour opposition is not being honest with the people of Swindon. “Our budget challenge as a council was to save £15m for the 2013/14 budget. On this, the real task, the opposition has nothing to say.”