Future bleak for charity

Driver Jason Townson and the Rideability Bus at Blackpool.
Driver Jason Townson and the Rideability Bus at Blackpool.
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CRISIS talks have been held to discuss the future of an under-threat bus service.

Blackpool’s Rideability is set to be taken in-house by the council in a move which will save £30,000 a year.

But users of the charity-run service, which provides door to door transport for elderly and disabled people at a subsidised cost, fear the move could lead to a reduction in hours.

Around 100 people gathered to discuss the crisis when Rideability held an emergency meeting, attended by Coun Fred Jackson, on Friday.

Its chairman Martin Wilson said the future remained bleak for the charity.

He said: “There were about 100 people at the meeting including 80 disabled and elderly people who are our users.

“But the council is quite resolute that the budget has been fixed so they didn’t really offer us any hope.

“Our only option now is to try to seek alternative funding but that is not easy in these tough times.

“However the meeting did demonstrate the strength of support for the service and the concerns of the users.”

Rideability, which is based at Layton Depot, is fully funded by Blackpool Council.

Coun Tony Williams, leader of the opposition Conservative group on Blackpool Council, said the service could have been protected if the council had previously claimed a government fuel subsidy it was entitled to.

He said: “The government’s Bus Service Operators Grant (BSOG) provides a rebate cash-back scheme for bus companies on a percentage of the fuel they spend each year.

“Blackpool Council’s internal transport services are eligible for this rebate.

“It has come to my attention the council has failed to claim this rebate since 2009 and has now lost tens of thousands of pounds which they could have been entitled to.

“This is money which might have been used to keep the Rideability service going.”

Coun Williams has called for an investigation into why the rebate has not been claimed.

But the council said it did not believe a claim would have raised a substantial amount.

Coun Fred Jackson, cabinet member for streets and transport, said: “An audit of this matter is now underway at Coun Williams’ request.

“We are currently looking at the issues raised and will be responding as soon as possible.”

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