Funding fears for dial-a-ride

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Fears have been raised for passengers using a community bus service in and around Soham if council budget cuts are approved.

Ely and Soham Dial-a-Ride (ESDAR) provides transport across an area including Soham, Fordham, Isleham and Wicken for a return fare of £4 - the other 50 per cent is currently subsidised by Cambridgeshire County Council.

But if proposed cuts to the council’s overall budget are approved at a meeting later this month, the service will lose the subsidised bus passes from the financial year 2015/16, along with its annual funding from 2016/17.

Gillian Leeper, ESDAR chief executive, said the service would need around £30,000 to make up for the loss, if the proposals were approved.

She said: “I don’t think people realise how much we do. They think we just take elderly people shopping, but we do much more.

“We transport people with dementia, or who are infirm, frail, or caring for their partners. We break social isolation by getting them to the doctors, opticians, leisure centre, or friends and family.”

Cambridgeshire County Council Leader Martin Curtis said the council faced “unprecedented pressure” on its budgets and needed to find savings of £149 million over the next five years.

“Our officers and councillors will be working with community transport operators to find other income streams and of course be applying to Government ourselves if any further funding is available.

“The council has a great record in helping support community transport because we understand its importance.

“No councillor, I included, came into politics to make cuts and we have done our best over the previous years to protect frontline services, especially those which support the most vulnerable in our society.”

To contact ESDAR, call 01353 661161 or email