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Cuts to impact on dial-a-ride service
DIAL-A-RIDE services could be hit by cuts to operating hours after three district councils refused to stump up any cash.
The door-to-door service for OAPs and the disabled will operate from 10am to 3pm instead of 9am to 5pm in Oxford and the south of the county under latest plans.
Currently, Oxfordshire councils spend about £470,000 on the service but how it is managed is being changed.
Oxfordshire County Council will be solely responsible from April, the start of the 2012/13 financial year.
While it will continue to put in £160,000 and keep the service free for the eligible, three of Oxfordshire’s five district councils are set to put in no extra cash.
And they would also only get one bus a day for four days. Oxford currently has two a day with one in Vale and none in South.
While the operator, along with details of how the scheme will run, have yet to be agreed, fears are growing about the impact on the service.
Age UK Oxfordshire spokesman Paul Cann said: “We are very concerned that this vital link for older people appears to be under threat.
“This is exactly the wrong way to go if we want to keep our older citizens active.”
Cherwell District Council is this year spending £188,000 on its service, run by Banburyshire Community Transport Association.
But the 2012/13 figure to be paid to the county will be well below this, said Ken Atack, cabinet member for financial management.
He would not give a sum but said: “If the service is not deemed to be as good as it could be then we would make available additional monies.”
And a £30,000 grant to the Citizens’ Advice Bureau would help to set up a network of private car drivers to aid the needy, he said.
Dial-a-ride user Dot Wilkins said she would not be able to afford £14 return taxi fares to see husband Arthur, 88, in his Adderbury nursing home if her bus was cut.
The 88-year-old Banbury resident said: “I just don’t know what the council is thinking about not wanting to give them the money. It is well spent.”
Deputy city leader, Labour’s Ed Turner, said: “It is a core county responsibility and they ought to fund it.”
Vale leader Matthew Barber said the county service would be “adequate” and “broadly the same”. The South said officers were recommending no extra cash.
West Oxfordshire is set to approve an “appropriate level” of funding, no more than the £29,400 it is spending this year, which bosses say will maintain the service.
County member for transport Rodney Rose said: “Everybody has to take a bit of the pain, you can’t suddenly say one group shouldn’t take any.”