THE FUTURE of the Dial a Ride service is set to be discussed by Swindon Council tomorrow.

The council is expected to announce that as its funding of the service has been found to be in breach of European Union anti-competition laws, the service must be put out to tender.

Dial a Ride provides free door-to-door transport for the elderly and disabled so they can get to school, to doctor’s appointments, shopping or to clubs.

Conservative-led Swindon Council threatened to cut £50,000 from Dial a Ride’s £331,000 a year funding at the end of last year, but backed down in the face of fierce opposition from other councillors and members of the public.

The Labour group on the council believes that putting the Dial a Ride contract out to tender will enable private companies to bid for it, which they say will mean customers having to pay to use the service.

Swindon Labour group leader, Coun Derique Montaut, said the proposals would put Dial a Ride out of existence and called for people to oppose them.

“The Conservative administration’s plans would get this incredibly important decision for the most vulnerable in our town wrong,” he said.

He claimed that no other Dial a Ride service in the country had had its funding withdrawn as a result of European Union laws, and questioned why the council was pursuing this course of action.

A Swindon Council spokesman said: “During 2009, a review of the Dial a Ride service was undertaken and it was established that the current arrangement of providing a grant to Swindon Dial a Ride does not conform to current European law.

“In order to maintain continuity of service to the public, an interim agreement has been put in place with Swindon Dial a Ride until the services are formally tendered to the open market.

“The council is currently discussing how best to procure a Dial a Ride service for members of the public who are unable to use conventional public transport and we expect to reach a way forward on this shortly.”

The service will be discussed at a meeting of Swindon Council’s procurement advisory group tomorrow.