by Maia Jarvis
A campaign is to be mounted by Dial a Ride users against Swindon Borough Council’s proposed cuts to the service.
This comes after six users of the service met with Councillor Derique Montaut (Lab, Liden, Eldene & Park South) to discuss the cuts.
Swindon Council has proposed a cut to the Dial a Ride contract of £100,000 in 2016/17 which would only be a part-year saving and would mean cuts of up to £200,000 in the following year.
The current contract between the council and Dial a Ride ends on 31 August and the council has warned that if no agreement is made with the charity it could face closure and alternative solutions sought.
Councillor Derique Montaut said: “Swindon Dial a Ride is to lose its funding from Swindon Council. This would inevitably mean either the complete closure or dramatic scaling back of the service, with Dial a Ride users being effected.
“I call on the Conservative Group to show compassion to service users and move beyond party political lines.
“In Oxford, the county council cut funding from their Dial a Ride service and the result was the service’s closure. We don’t want to take the same path here in Swindon.
“At the request of Dial a Ride users, I met with them to understand how Dial a Ride helps improve their lives and understand how a cut or complete closure to the service might lead to their lives declining. The users told me that without the service they would have no life and wouldn’t be able to get to work or pay their bills or see their families. One user said they would probably be in a care home costing Swindon Council a lot of money were it not for Dial a Ride.
“I was delighted to hear from Robert Buckland MP that he supports efforts to protect Dial a Ride and supports its continuation. Like me he has written to the council’s chief executive outlining his concerns.”
Cllr Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Sustainability, Highways and Transport (Con, Covingham and Dorcan), said: “The council is currently undertaking confidential discussions with Dial A Ride about extending the current contract by a further two years.
“Everyone fully appreciates the work of the volunteers and staff, and the value of the Dial A Ride service to its passengers. This is why nothing rash is happening, even though the original part-year £100,000 funding reduction was approved five months ago.
“Dial A Ride published its annual report last month and it highlights how the company has £809,942 sitting in reserve bank accounts.
“The council will continue to support transport for people with disabilities, and it would not be appropriate to comment further while negotiations continue.
“This is a very sensitive topic, and I really hope there is no scaremongering taking place. I want to see a successful conclusion, but if no agreement can be reached before 31 August then the contract may end, and alternative solutions will be sought.”