Emotions run high as businessman’s bid to save Dial a Ride fails and members vote to wind up charity

Dial-a-Ride AGM, Witchford. Picture: Steve Williams.

Dial-a-Ride AGM, Witchford. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

The curtain was brought down on Ely and Soham Dial a Ride after members reluctantly voted to fold the service and carve up its assets between two charities.

Dial-a-Ride AGM, Witchford. Picture: Steve Williams.

Dial-a-Ride AGM, Witchford. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Passions ran high at dial a ride’s annual meeting in Witchford on Tuesday, with members accusing trustees of “giving up”, while others called for the fight to go on and new solutions to be found.

But chairman Ruth Rodgers said the board of trustees had exhausted all options to save the service, which had run up substantial losses in the last few years, totalling more than £50,000.

She said: “This is a sad day; we didn’t want to have to end it like this. We wanted Ely and Soham Dial a Ride to continue to flourish but the situation is not sustainable.

“We have tried our best to get to the bottom of the problems and there may be people out there who have answers and we recognise that.”

Mrs Rodgers said a combination of factors, including falling usage, cuts in grant funding, re-negotiated council contracts and rising costs had left the charity’s finances with a bleak outlook.

Treasurer, John Wignall said: “The national climate is still very difficult and very uncertain and without significant financial support, it will not be possible for dial a ride to continue.”

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Ely and Soham Dial a Ride was launched by a board of volunteers in 1999 to offer transport to elderly and disabled people living in isolation.

A proposal to wind Dial a Ride up and enter into negotiations with Fenland Association for Community Transport (FACT), based in March, and Volunteer Network (VN), based in Newmarket, was approved by the majority of members.

It is hoped that FACT and VN will be able to pick up the service offered by Dial a Ride when the charity is formally wound up, on March 31, though discussions have yet to begin.

A counter proposal put forward by Ely businessman Peter Dawe was discounted by members, who chose instead to pursue negotiations with FACT and VN.

Mr Dawe proposed to take over as chairman of dial a ride and include the service as part of a wider community transport company, but he could not guarantee members that their door-to-door service would continue and failed to gain their support.

Councillor Gareth Wilson, who agreed to join the board of trustees to help negotiate the wind up, said: “I’m very disappointed because I wanted the board to come out fighting but it seems that have given up which is really sad.”