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Transport for Preston’s most vulnerable people faces funding cut

Posted on - 17th January, 2018 - 8:32am | Author - | Posted in - Politics, Preston News, Transport
All aboard! Steven Kitching
Onboard some of the new Dial-a-Ride buses from Preston Community Transport

Some of Preston’s most vulnerable people face a future of not being able to get out and about as much.

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Community transport funding looks set to be slashed by Lancashire County Council in the latest round of funding cuts.

The county council is proposing to reduce the money given to the Community Transport Consortium by 50 per cent during the next three years – a cut in real terms of nearly £400,000.

Dial-a-ride, which helps the elderly and disabled to get back from supermarkets and other public places, could be under-threat if the funding is reduced.

The Community Transport Consortium operates in Preston, Ribble Valley, South Ribble, Chorley and West Lancashire.

The new buses funded by the Department of Transport Pic: Steven Kitching
Dial-A-Ride buses operated by Preston Community Transport Pic: Steven Kitching

Joe Hannett from Preston Community Transport said: “Preston CT regret any reductions in funding which could lead to less support for those who rely on our services.

“The fact that LCC envisage a new contract is important; we will continue to talk with LCC over the coming weeks and work with them to get the best result for our passengers, whose needs continue to grow year on year.”

Read more: New buses to help ensure Prestonians don’t stay home alone

The Lancashire Labour group have criticised the proposal to reduce the funding.

County councillor John Fillis said: Dial-a- Ride services provide a door to door service for some of the most vulnerable in our communities. These are the elderly, disabled and people who suffer from long term illness, who cannot stand at the bus stop. There are more than 6,200 regular users who, between them, made in excess of 166,000 journeys in 2016/17.

“The effect on these people’s lives would be devastating and the knock on affect to the rest of our communities would be just as traumatic especially felt within our National Health Service who would be left to pick up the avoidable health problems.

“We worked with the operators to establish the Community Transport Consortium, to enhance the service to for local people. Labour increased the funding through what was a very difficult financial period. This decision would put at risk the long term viability of Community Transport operator’s right across Lancashire.”

The reduction in funding for community transport is one of a number of proposed savings being made by Lancashire County Council.

A paper to the county council’s cabinet outlines where additional savings of £11million are to be found.

This would take the county council’s total savings during this financial year to £81million as it seeks to plug a funding gap of £144m by 2022.

Leader of the county council Geoff Driver said: “In common with every council in the country we are having to make difficult decisions about how we use our resources while ensuring the books are balanced.

“We are absolutely committed to funding the services that we know people value. We have done that with our programme of reopening libraries, investing in good quality roads, and supporting bus services across the county.

“However the county council’s financial situation is very challenging and one of our key priorities is to create a more financially stable council that will enable us to future-proof our improvements to critical services for the most vulnerable in our communities.

“These proposals have identified significant savings all of which will now be carefully considered by cabinet.

“Going forward we will need to make more savings but we are working hard to protect front-line services services especially for safeguarding children and other vulnerable members of society.”

Read more: New top boss starts at Lancashire County Council

The cabinet is due to meet on Thursday 18 January to discuss the latest savings proposals.

What do you think about the proposals to cut community transport funding? Let us know in the comments below

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