Stoke & Staffordshire

Dial-a-Ride charity stops trading

A charity providing transport for elderly and disabled people in part of Cheshire has stopped trading for financial reasons after 25 years.

East Cheshire Community Transport said it had a monthly Cheshire East Council grant cut from £10,506 to £6,186.

The group, formerly Crewe, Nantwich & Congleton Dial-a-Ride, said it was "very, very sad" about the closure.

The council said it was told trading would end on Tuesday despite its "generous" £81,000 grant on 1 April.

Co-founder Bill Scragg said his organisation, which covered east Cheshire apart from Macclesfield, estimated it had more than 900 memberships.

'Cup of tea'

He said it introduced a membership scheme of £12 a year in 2011, which was "helping to top up reserves, but it wasn't enough".

He added: "Our drivers would often carry shopping in for them [passengers] and make a cup of tea.

"There will be a replacement service by Cheshire East Council, but it won't be the same as our service."

Mr Scragg said the group claimed concessionary fares back from the council and these amounted to £73,000 annually, but that stopped from 1 April.

However, he added: "Every council has got to save money. I haven't got a complaint about that."

'Alternative providers'

The council said it was "disappointed" to hear that the independent operator could "no longer sustain Dial-a-Ride in Crewe".

A spokesman added: "We can confirm that we have swiftly sought other providers to ensure that schoolchildren affected will receive home-to-school transport immediately.

"Around 60 adults who rely on the transport to access social care establishments will be catered for in the short term by our own fleet of buses."

The spokesman said customers who booked a journey for this week would have to make other arrangements, adding: "We are urgently seeking alternative providers and the charity's current membership will be contacted immediately, once new arrangements have been secured."

He said the council had been informed that the transport charity's trustees were talking to professional advisers about the current financial position and "only then will we be able to glean a better picture of why this situation arose".

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