A PENSIONER has made a passionate plea for civic chiefs to rethink proposals to axe a transport service for the elderly and disabled.
Catherine Robinson uses the Dial-a-Ride service twice a week to make trips from her Hartlepool home to the town’s Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.
But proposals put forward by Hartlepool Borough Council could see the service, which has operated in town for 13 years, axed at the end of March.
It comes as the local authority is faced with slashing its £90m budget over the next four years as a result of cuts in public spending.
Mrs Robinson, 71, a former secretary, said: “I use Dial-a-Ride every week to go on shopping trips and it really is a lifeline for me as I don’t get out much.”
The widow, who lives in Albany Court, Hartlepool, hopes that councillors will save the service which transports people anywhere in town for a flat rate of £2.50.
Civic chiefs say it is with “great reluctance” that they are proposing to withdraw the service which costs £209,000 a year to run.
Mrs Robinson, who suffers with spine problems, arthritis and severe eczema, said: “I cannot walk any further than to the toilet and back, so I rely on my wheelchair and the service is vitally important.
“The drivers are very friendly and helpful and I am pleading with the council to change its mind.
“It can be difficult to get wheelchair accessible taxis because they are often booked up.”
Mrs Robinson’s husband Derrick Robinson, a former school caretaker, died of a brain tumour at the age of 69.
A council spokesman said: “It is with great reluctance that the council is proposing to withdraw the Dial-a-Ride service, but this is as a result of the significant reduction in government grant from April.
“Over the next four years it’s estimated that the council will have to slash its budget by a third and we are facing some very difficult choices over which services we can maintain.
“The council has taken into account the high cost of running the service and the fact that the current fleet of vehicles needs replacing.
“The service currently costs the council £209,000 a year to run, but a further £200,000 would be needed in the next year to replace the five-vehicle fleet.
“During the budget debates it has been commented, however, that the withdrawal of the service could create an opportunity for the taxi trade to step in and provide a similar service to current Dial-a-Ride users.
“It is a good opportunity for the taxi trade to generate some extra business and jobs.”
The cabinet committee will meet on Monday, February 7, to finalise its budget recommendations which will go to a meeting of the full council on February 10.