Dial-a-Ride could be cut off

HUNDREDS of pensioners could be left stranded and unable to get to vital hospital appointments if council purseholders slash funding for community transport

HUNDREDS of pensioners could be left stranded and unable to get to vital hospital appointments if council purseholders slash funding for community transport.North Somerset Council is looking at cutting the amount of money it gives to run community transport schemes and subsidised bus routes in a bid to plug a £17million funding gap. But volunteers who run Nailsea and District Community Transport say any cut in its grant by the authority could mean it would have to drastically reduce the number of trips it runs.Nailsea and District Community Transport manager Lesley Timmins said: "We had a meeting with representatives of North Somerset Council and they said it was likely our funding would be cut."We operate as a not for profit charity so obviously struggle for money so to have any cut in our funding would be disastrous."The organisation, which launched 13 years ago, currently has a fleet of eight minibuses and last year made 25,000 passenger journeys across Clevedon, Nailsea and Portishead.It costs £203,360 each year to run the service, which is employs six part time drivers and has 20 voluntary drivers. This year the authority granted £37,500 towards the service and for the year 2008/9 the charity has applied for £45,000As well as operating the Dial-a-Ride service to take people to doctors and hospital appointments, the group also run regular shopping trips and days out for local pensioners.Mrs Timmins added: "The majority of our users are elderly people and for some, the weekly shopping trip is the only time they get out and socialise. "They rely on our service and would struggle to do their weekly shopping and get to appointments without it. We have already tried to save money by cutting down the amount of miles we do and saving on items such as postage - we have been making real economies."We are also in the process of applying to different funders for grants to keep this vital community service going."It would be very sad if we had to scale down our operation."North Somerset Council spokesman Steve Makin said the authority was facing having to make some tough decisions to balance its books.Mr Makin said: "The council faces a £17million funding gap over the next two years and is currently reviewing all its services to see if savings can be made and efficiency improved. As part of this the funding and role in supported bus services and community transport is being reviewed, but as yet, no decisions have been made.


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