Friday, 31 January 2014

Lib Dems Condemn Tory Plan To Cut Dial-A-Ride Funding As "Heartless"

A Tory plan to cut funding for the county’s Dial-a-Ride and other community transport schemes which could lead to their total collapse has been attacked as “brutal and heartless” by Cambridgeshire Liberal Democrats.

They say the move, in the Conservatives’ proposed County Council budget would leave elderly and disabled people isolated and vulnerable across the county.

Cambridgeshire County Council received a government grant of £516,000 to help community transport operators develop and expand. But the bulk of the money has not been distributed and the Tories plan to use it to plug holes in the council’s budget.

In contrast, the Lib Dems’ budget allows more than £400,000 funding for community transport over the next two years.

Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson, Susan van de Ven said: “Community transport provides the only way for thousands of the county’s most vulnerable and isolated people to make social contact and access public services.

“The cuts proposed by the Conservatives are brutal and misguided. They are planning a cut in funding for community transport and there is a real prospect that it could collapse completely.

“We have an ageing population and community transport providers are making more frequent and longer journeys since the tightening of NHS patient transport. These drivers are volunteers and longer journeys take more time which has an impact on the number of volunteers available.

“If we allow community transport to collapse it will inevitably cost more for the taxpayer in the longer term. Community transport cuts would be a spectacular case of false economy.

Sue Austen East Cambridgeshire District Councillor and member of the Cambridgeshire Older Peoples Partnership Board said if the district were to lose its Dial-a-Ride service it would seriously impact on the elderly, infirm and those who live in rural areas.

“These short term measures and not only misguided, they are heartless,” she said. “People will be isolated in their own homes and some may lose their independence and have to go into residential homes. Public transport in many areas is limited or non-existent, community transport is their lifeline.”