Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock joins fight to save transport scheme from axe

Mike Hancock
Mike Hancock

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CITY MP Mike Hancock has stepped up the fight to protect a transport scheme for vulnerable residents.

The Portsmouth South MP has sent letters to the city council urging for a U-turn over plans to take away £117,000 it gives Pete’s Airlink to operate Dial-a-Ride.

The company runs minibuses that pick up residents who can’t get to a bus from their home.

Council leader Donna Jones has insisted community transport is not being axed as a charity will be found to pick up the work at a cheaper rate.

The council is making a £500,000 pot of money available to help voluntary organisations to save it money in the long run.

But campaigners believe a charity will struggle to cope with looking after the 1,000 residents a month who depend on Dial-a-Ride.

Mr Hancock wrote in a letter to the council’s chief executive David Williams: ‘The decision to include this in the cuts has been taken without all of the information available from Dial-a-Ride to explain fully its situation.’

Mr Hancock wrote to Cllr Jones saying: ‘It would be in everyone’s interests if you were to have a meeting with them and to let them talk you through the situation as they see it, because it would appear that an awful lot has happened which has not been detailed to the council.’

Cllr Jones said: ‘I’m more than happy with the council’s position and we’re working with a voluntary partner who will deliver this through the third sector.

‘If Mr Hancock thinks Pete’s Airlink is the right organisation to run it I suggest he finds the £117,000 that is required.’

A petition by the Lib Dems against the cuts has attracted more than 250 signatures.

Tracey Jones, schedule operator for Dial-a-Ride, said: ‘We have had loads of support – more than I thought we would. We’re winning people around.

‘I had a long discussion with Cllr Colin Galloway (Ukip group leader) and he asked where I thought the council should save money.

‘I said about why there needed to be 42 councillors, which he said was a fair point.’

But Cllr Luke Stubbs, Tory deputy leader of the council, warned it did not have the money to maintain every service.

‘I appreciate the concern, but we just don’t have the money anymore,’ he said.