Portsmouth charity’s plan to drop bus services for the elderly

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BUSES for the elderly and vulnerable could be dropped by a city charity.

Community First is looking for another organisation to take over its Dial-a-Ride and Shopmobility services.

Charity boss Paul Emery has promised to ensure the services continue to operate in the city.

But he is unable to confirm whether the staff running them will keep their jobs.

He said: ‘We are consulting with our people, our staff, on the matter now. We want the service to continue, run by another charity. We know the people who use it like the staff who run it now – because they are good at their jobs. And we apprectiate them. So we want to make sure they can continue with the new operator.

‘But we’re at a very early stage in the process, so we can’t really talk about conversations we haven’t had with other operators yet.’

Community First runs the two services, which help elderly, disabled, and vulnerable people make trips out of their homes, such as to shops or for visits, on behalf of Portsmouth City Council.

The people who use it call in advance to book transport, and the buses call door-to-door, picking several passengers up on each trip.

In March, the council said it needed to save cash, and the charity agreed a new three-year deal, in which it is paid £113,000 per year – a cut of £41,900.

But Mr Emery said its plans to stop running the service, which makes 12,000 journeys a year and has 829 signed-up members, are not financially motivated.

He said: ‘We are a charity which mainly exists to offer support to other voluntary and community organisations. Our role is to help them operate and grow as they wish to. We feel it’s not appropriate for us to be diverting attention from that, and competing with these same groups by bidding to run services.’

Discussions have opened with staff operating the service, but no potential new operator has been contacted yet.

Mr Emery hoped a decision could be made about the future of the service by the start of November.

He said: ‘The discussions with staff are ongoing. When we have decided how to go forward, we will then contact potential partners and speak to them about how the transition will happen, if that’s what we decide. We will take things forward in the interests of our staff, and the people who use the service.

‘We are committed to ensuring this excellent service continues in the city, at least as well as, if not even better than, it does at present.’