'˜Lifeline' Derbyshire community transport service to close

A community transport service for elderly people in Derbyshire is to close '“ just months after the Conservatives promised to protect these '˜vital' services.

Wednesday, 19th July 2017, 4:55 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:58 pm
Jon Broad, driver for Clowne and District Community Transport, picture middle left with a bus full of service users. Picture by Mark Fear.

Clowne and District Community Transport, which has been serving the people of Bolsover and north east Derbyshire for 28 years, has been told all the money it gets from Derbyshire County Council will be withdrawn.

Unless new funding can be found, the service will have to close on September 30 – leaving thousands of elderly people potentially confined to their homes.

Director Jill Mead said: “We are very concerned that people are going to become socially isolated. Just because somebody is elderly doesn’t mean they stop living.”

Jon Broad, driver for Clowne and District Community Transport. Picture by Mark Fear.

Jill says that while the dial-a-bus and active travel schemes will continue, the important additional services they offer will stop.

These include lifts to lunch clubs and social groups, and help from dedicated ‘passenger assistants’.

“Everyone is very upset. We don’t want to leave people in the lurch,” she said.

One of the organisations which has won a contract – CT4TC – has since told Clowne and District Community Transport it hopes to be able to fulfil its bookings after September 30.

Jon Broad, driver for Clowne and District Community Transport. Picture by Mark Fear.

Councillor Simon Spencer, Derbyshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Infrastructure, said: “We could not be clearer in our commitment to provide transport schemes which support vulnerable people in isolated and rural communities and plan to put substantial funding back into community transport by reversing scheduled cuts.

“For many years Derbyshire County Council has supported all six of the county’s community transport schemes through grants, to run Dial-a-Bus (DAB) ‘shopping’ buses and aCTive travel services to healthcare appointments for people unable to use conventional bus services.

“Following a legal challenge, which makes it more difficult to provide funding in this way, from September, new Derbyshire Connect services, similar to the current DAB and aCTive travel services, will be run under contract.

“This offers better value for money – around £7 per passenger to run compared to an average £16.57 for the current service – and provides a more customer focused service. Gold Card holders will also be able to travel for free – currently they have to pay – and in the longer term we expect it to develop into a more flexible service to meet the needs of a wider range of customers.

“All of Derbyshire’s community transport schemes have been aware of these new arrangements for a considerable time and were given the opportunity to bid for these contracts but some chose not to.

“They were consulted regularly regarding funding issues and we’ve been doing all we can to support them by encouraging them to plan for the future such as by looking at whether there are other potential funding options available in addition to the income they get from their contracted work.”