A disabled pensioner has said she feels at a loose end after a charitable taxi service stopped taking her to her fortnightly social events – something the service puts down to a dramatic cut in its funding from local government.
Mobility scooter user Ellen Radley, 79, has been using the Central Lancashire Dial-A-Ride charitable service for around four years – but since July 17 she was told she could no longer use it for her fortnightly trips on a Wednesday.
“Some people at my age are old and all they want to be is old. I don’t,” explained bowel cancer survivor Ellen.
“I want to get on with what life and having a laugh, not be miserable. But this means I can’t get that.”
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Ellen started using the charity service – which advertises itself as providing ‘safe considerate and accessible transport to people who can’t use regular public transport’ – to carry on her two decade tradition of meeting up with friends in Chorley for a catch up every two weeks.
But in her later years she has found herself needing to use a mobility scooter to get around, with 86-year-old husband Raymond not in a position to be taking her in and out of their car.
“I gave my licence up last year because I can’t get the scooter in and out the car,” explained Ellen, from the Great Knowley area.
“And Raymond is 86, he can’t put it in and out the car. I can’t go in a normal taxi.
“I can’t push my wheelchair if I go somewhere on my own. I can’t go out on a bad day. This is why going out with my friends is so important. But I can’t.”
The Dial-A-Ride service, which is based at the Lower Healey Business Park in Chorley, is supported by Lancashire County, Chorley, and South Ribble councils.
Tracy Keating, who runs the Central Lancashire Dial-A-Ride service, cited a drastic cut in its funding for the reason behind why the service has ceased to exist since July.
The reduction came as part of Lancashire County Council’s decision to reduce the budget for £1,003,000 budget for community transport by nearly 40 per cent – £391,000 – from
No further reductions are being made as part of the current contract – but a new one is due to be introduced from April next year.
It is understood funding is set to be cut to around 50 per cent of their original budget.
“This year we’ve lost £38,000 from our £121,000 budget,” explained Tracy.
“We now have to say no to people and we hate it.
“But once we say no and the phone is put down we don’t stop there; there’s a fair bit of work to rearrange things to see if we can then fit them in.
“We don’t just say ‘we aren’t taking bookings today’.
“It’s a sign of the times. We ran [the Wednesday service] for as long as we could.
"We received no funding for that service; it was something we did for seven years.
“But a driver left and the funding was cut. Another driver stood in for around a year – but we’re still looking for a replacement driver.”
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Tracy said that an alternative on a different day was offered to Mrs Radley; something Mrs Radley said was correct but something that she said was not appropriate for her plans.
“With regards to covering the whole of Chorley and South Ribble we manage the requests we receive as best we can with four minibuses to cover the whole area and limited funding,” explained Tracy.
“We are an accessible bus service not a taxi service and like buses we have certain days and times for certain places.
“We do however manage with our limited resources to do 34,000 single passenger journeys per year.”
Lancashire County Coun Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “Community transport is a vital door-to-door service for people who are unable to use the scheduled bus network and we are continuing to support these services across Lancashire.
“We are currently working on a tender for a new contract to operate from April 2020.”
The county council did not comment when asked about a reported further funding cut beyond April 2020.