Assurances given vulnerable in Portsmouth will not go without buses

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ASSURANCES have been made that vulnerable residents will not go without transport despite cuts to a Dial-a-Ride scheme.

Portsmouth City Council’s Tory administration plans to remove the £117,000 it gives Pete’s Airlink each year to help pensioners get out and about in mini-buses.

It means the firm will not be able to afford to continue the service and fears have been raised it will imprison people in their homes.

But Councillor Donna Jones, Tory council leader, has revealed the authority is seeking to get a charity to pick up the work instead which will not require as much of a public subsidy. And she insisted the council has no intention of leaving residents abandoned.

‘Community transport around Portsmouth is provided for some of our most elderly and disabled residents,’ Cllr Jones said.

‘We at the council do not want to take away services from people that else would effectively make them housebound.

‘This is about spending taxpayers’ money wisely.

‘Each trip is subsidised to the tune of around £11 and we believe there is a cheaper way of providing a quality service.’

But Tracey Jones, transport schedule organiser for Pete’s Airlink’s Dial-a-Ride operation, warned a charity would not be able to cope with the level of customers it provides for.

‘I don’t know any charity that could cope with 900 to 1,000 people a month,’ Miss Jones said.

‘We run three buses full-time, and I also go out and help now and again.

‘Donna Jones is under the impression that the Dial-a-Ride buses will go with whoever takes it on, but they won’t as they belong to Pete’s Airlink.’

Tracey said Pete’s Airlink would not fold if the subsidy was taken away as the company has other transport contracts, including ones taking employees to work and pupils to school.

It’s hoped another organisation can be found to run Dial-a-Ride after the council’s budget for next year is finalised in December.

As reported, the council has suggested axing its funding to Pete’s Airlink to claw back £13.1m in its budget next year.

Savings have to be made due to cuts in government funding.

It comes on top of the £61m the council has already saved in the last four years.