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South Derbyshire 'lifeline' bus service continues as East Staffordshire under threat

Derbyshire County Council has awarded contracts

Mobility Link is based off Stapenhill Road(Image: Google)

Disabled and elderly people in South Derbyshire will still be able to use a life-line bus service as people in East Staffordshire could see their community bus axed.

Derbyshire County Council has pledged to continue paying for the county-wide Dial-a-Bus service. It has now awarded contracts to groups to run the buses, rather than grants.

In South Derbyshire the service takes people shopping and also takes them to medical appointments and is run by South Derbyshire Community Volunteer Service.

Dial-a-Bus helps the less mobile people who are unable to use conventional transport because of mobility difficulties or because they live in areas - usually rural - where public transport is limited. Currently, users pay a £3 flat rate for the service, but, from October when the new changes kick in, it will be free to bus Gold Card members after 9.30am.

The Burton Mail recently revealed that Staffordshire County Council is looking to scrap its similar service, Mobility Link which runs the Needwood and Lichfield Connect Mobility Link Service. The authority said it costs £53,000 alone a year to subsidise the Needwood service and it needs to save money due to cuts.

Contracts to operate the Dial-a-Bus services across the county have now been awarded and will start in October. They are generally taken on by voluntary and community groups, which are funded by the county council to operate the buses.

They will take people to things like supermarkets, banks and medical appointments at hospitals, clinics, the doctors, dentists and opticians.

Derbyshire councillor Trevor Ainsworth, the council’s deputy cabinet member for highways, transport and infrastructure, said: "This is great news for community transport users.

"We are aware that there have been concerns among some passengers that their services were ending because funding was being withdrawn. This is not the case – funding is being provided in a different way.

"We know how important getting out and about is for people to retain their independence and we are clear on our commitment to continue to support the most vulnerable, particularly in rural and isolated communities, ensuring they have the same opportunities as they currently have, to travel to vital services."

Funding for Dial-a-Bus services is currently provided by the council through grants and in Derbyshire services are run by the county’s six community transport schemes, which are given cash to run them via grants.

Changes have been made to how the service is funded following a legal challenge at national level, with councils now getting organisations to bid for contracts, rather than groups being given the opportunity to run the service, with a grant, without working for it.

Ashbourne Community Transport, based in Ashbourne, won the contract to provide the buses to cover the Derbyshire Dales, High Peak and South Derbyshire.
South Derbyshire Community Volunteers Service, based in Swadlincote, will provide buses for medical appointments in South Derbyshire and in the south of the Derbyshire Dales.

Dial-a-Bus services - now called Derbyshire Connect - still need to be booked and will continue to run door-to-door with people on hand to assist passengers, where necessary.

Councillor Ainsworth said: "These new Derbyshire Connect buses will offer better value for money – around £7 per passenger to run compared to an average £16.57 for the current service – and provide a more customer focused service. Gold Card holders will also be able to travel for free. Currently they have to pay, and in the longer term we expect them to develop into more flexible services to meet the needs of a wider range of customers."

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