Fears travel scheme will not work unless more cash is found

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FEARS have been raised a new method of running the city’s Dial-a-Ride service will not work unless it gets enough support.

Portsmouth City Council wants the transport service to be picked up by a not-for-profit organisation and stop it being run by a private company.

It is part of the council’s bid to reduce costs as it currently gives Pete’s Airlink £117,000 a year to operate the scheme, which supports vulnerable residents.

But Dial-a-Ride schedule operator Tracey Jones, who wants to continue running it by setting up a voluntary organisation, warned the council is only prepared to give her a one-off payment of £20,000 towards costs – which isn’t enough.

Speaking at the full council meeting, Miss Jones said: ‘Dial-a-Ride is a day-to-day service for elderly and disabled people in our community.

‘We are trying to keep the service going, but our grant is now going from £70,000 to £20,000, and if that’s the amount we will be getting then it will not work.’

She thanked Councillor Ken Ellcome, Tory cabinet member for traffic and transport, and Lib Dem group leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, for trying to help.

MS sufferer Karen Silman pleaded with the council to not axe its support to Pete’s Airlink as it was providing a valuable service – and no-one else would provide the same help.

Councillor Donna Jones, Tory leader of the council, assured Miss Jones would be able to tap into a new £500,000 fund set up for the voluntary sector.

‘I was pleased to work with cross-party councillors to ensure Dial-a-Ride has a lifeline, to protect it and to ensure people that need community transport in this city the most, have access to it,’ Cllr Jones said.

‘I have pledged to help Tracey, and Kieron and Keith the drivers to work up a business plan, and help them understand the financial modelling of a not-for-profit company.’

But Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘That service’s future is not secure at the moment. It is still at risk. There is no other Dial-a-Ride in the country that exists with no council subsidy which is why we thought it was prudent to keep money in the budget to keep Dial-a-Ride going.’