Portsmouth-based Olympian Sir Ben Ainslie snubs dial-a-ride’s request for money

From left, leader of Portsmouth City Council Donna Jones, directors of Pompey Dial Ride Kerron Barnes and Tracey Jones, last year

From left, leader of Portsmouth City Council Donna Jones, directors of Pompey Dial Ride Kerron Barnes and Tracey Jones, last year

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A TRANSPORT service for vulnerable people has been snubbed by Sir Ben Ainslie’s team in its attempts to secure money from the Olympic sailor.

Pompey Dial Ride has been seeking support to cover the cost of running buses for the disabled and elderly.

Sir Ben Ainslie

Sir Ben Ainslie

In an attempt to find cash to keep its work going, current operator Tracey Jones wrote to Portsmouth-based Sir Ben and America’s Cup World Series boss Sir Keith Mills asking for help.

But she was shocked after she received replies saying they weren’t able to offer support.

Writing on behalf of Sir Ben, who led Land Rover BAR to victory at last month’s America’s Cup regatta in the Solent, BAR marketing and events apprentice Sophie Hall said: ‘Thank you for your letter to Sir Ben Ainslie informing us of your dial a ride service in Portsmouth – what a great idea, which is very valuable to the elderly and disabled community.

‘Unfortunately, we are unable to help on this occasion.’

If it wasn’t for our service, there would be lots of people who wouldn’t be able to get outside of their front door.

Tracey Jones

And a reply from sailing charity 1851 Trust on behalf of Sir Keith said: ‘Unfortunately, whilst recognising the very valuable service your organisation provides to local people, he is unable to offer financial support either personally or from Land Rover BAR on this occasion.’

The future of Pompey Dial Ride – taken over by Ms Jones last year after Portsmouth City Council axed funding it had given Havant-based Pete’s Airlink to run the service – is uncertain as it’s struggling to afford running costs.

Speaking about the responses from Sir Ben and Sir Keith, Ms Jones said: ‘I am disappointed because they said they will help people in this city; yet have they helped anyone so far?

‘If it wasn’t for our service, there would be lots of people who wouldn’t be able to get out of their front door.

‘And if they are saying they want to help Portsmouth, this would be a big way of doing so, by helping the elderly and disabled community.’

The council has said it will take over the whole operation next month to ensure it does not stop entirely.

Ms Jones is keen to stay involved. She said: ‘I have told the council leader, Councillor Donna Jones, that it’s my business, I won’t give it up without a fight, and there must be a way of working together.’

Portsmouth Lib Dem leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, says he has offered support and enabled Ms Jones to set up a new office at Cathedral Innovation Centre, in Old Portsmouth.

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