Portsmouth council bosses step in to save dial-a-ride service from the brink with £30,000 cash boost

VULNERABLE people in Portsmouth have been given a boost after a transport service getting them out of their homes was saved thanks to a £30,000 cash injection.

Friday, 2nd September 2016, 6:01 am
Leader of Portsmouth City Council Donna Jones, directors of Pompey Dial Ride Kerron Barnes and Tracey Jones, Jennie Brent, chief executive of The Beneficial Foundation and Cllr Ken Ellcome, when Dial Ride was saved from closure in April last year

Portsmouth City Council has agreed to step in and stop Pompey Dial Ride folding by awarding it the money after being convinced it can grow and provide more support.

The money from the authority’s transport pot ensures the service, which is based in the Cathedral Innovation Centre in Old Portsmouth, can continue to operate until the end of the financial year at the least.

It comes after Pompey Dial Ride operator Tracey Jones feared there would no cash left to keep vehicles on the road, which would have left up to 900 people a month stranded in their homes.

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Ms Jones said: ‘I’m really, really pleased and over the moon. For my customers, it’s really good news.

‘It means we can continue the service and they don’t have any changes and can carry on their lives as normal.

‘It’s about ensuring vulnerable people can get out of their homes, that’s what it’s always been about.’

Ms Jones praised her team of ‘business angels’ who helped her prepare a business plan; and said powerboat racing legend Alan Priddy – preparing to bring a new round-the-world sailing record back to the Solent region – has also been providing 
advice over the operation of her business.

Tory traffic boss Jim Fleming, who approved the release of the funding, says he was impressed with Ms Jones’ business plan, which outlines how 
the organisation intends to move forward.

One of its key aspirations is to become a community interest company (CIC), introduced by the government in 2005 for social enterprises that want to use their profits and assets for the public good.

Becoming a CIC would put Pompey Dial Ride in a stronger position when applying for funding from organisations other than the council, and is one rung down from charitable status.

Cllr Fleming said: ‘I have always been open to working with Pompey Dial Ride, and instantly it was clear that this was a far more robust business plan than we have seen previously.

‘Ms Jones has reinforced her commitment to what she wants to do, and following on from that, I have agreed to give her £30,000 which will take her to the end of the financial year.

‘And then, how she goes forward after that is reliant on her application of the business plan.

‘This is about ensuring people can get out of their homes, that they have that daily support and can get to the shops and the hospital.’

Portsmouth Lib Dem leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, who helped Ms Jones move into the Cathedral Innovation Centre and put her in touch with business officials to provide support, welcomed the news.

He said: ‘It’s such a vital service.

‘I am pleased, that instead of just leaving it as a service that wouldn’t pay in the future, we have put together people to give business support to Pompey Dial Ride and put a business plan together which the council has accepted and is prepared to fund.’