Council leader offers to step in as closure looms for community bus service

Cllr James Palmer

Cllr James Palmer - Credit: Archant

A life-line has been offered to the closure-threatened Ely and Soham Dial-a-Ride by the leader of East Cambridgeshire District Council.

Councillor James Palmer is offering to meet for talks to see how the organisation can be helped.

Last month Ely and Soham Dial-a-Ride officials announced that the service was facing closure because of a series of cuts that have seen its funding plummet by £100,000.

Dial-a-ride board members voted to wind up the organisation by March 31 next year unless a means of saving the service can be found.

Chairman, Ruth Rodgers said staff and board members were working desperately to find a way to preserve the service for its scores of members.

Cllr Palmer said: “I was dismayed when I first heard Ely Soham Dial-a-Ride was proposing to close in March next year. They are a great example of a community based organisation which meets the needs of some of our most vulnerable residents. “While I understand the financial predicament which Ely Soham Dial-a-Ride find themselves in – I hope they will reconsider their decision to close.

“I am aware that officers from the district and the county council have tried to meet with dial-a-ride but given the importance of their role I would like to extend a personal invite to sit down and find a solution.

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“I cannot believe that all the options have not been explored to help. We have a vast amount of experience within our local authorities and I believe through face to face communication, by listening and talking we can find the answers to save this much valued community service.”

Dial-a-ride provides low-cost transport to shopping centres for members living in isolated villages and has been running for 12 years.

It employs 35 staff and its based in Witchford, with a fleet of 10 buses.

Over the past two years the service has been hit by some significant reductions in funding including the removal of the concessionary bus pass, withdrawal of council grant funding and pressure to deliver contracts at the lowest possible cost.