|Dundee Partnership Awards Dinner|
I have spoken to many elderly constituents in the West End who have heard about the funding difficulties facing the service and were worried that the service would be threatened by the loss of one of its two sources of funding.
The bus service is described by Dundee Travel Info as :
To help you get out and about
This service picks up at a location near to you and you can use it if you have difficulty or find it impossible to use ordinary bus services.
The bus will take you to the nearest Retail Park, supermarket or City Centre and home again. If you want to go elsewhere and it is on the route tell the driver and you will be dropped wherever it is safe.
The vehicles are designed to carry wheelchairs, there is an escort to help you but feel free to bring a friend if you feel their support will help.”
I am greatly concerned at the cuts to the Fairer Scotland Fund and questions have to be asked about the City Council raiding the fund to help balance its own budget, at the expense of the objectives of the Dundee Partnership. Not the SNP council’s finest moment.
One of the cuts is to take away the Friendly Bus funding grant, an annual £21 000 grant. Elderly users of this sheltered shopping service had heard from bus drivers about the funding loss and were greatly concerned that this could threaten the financial viability of the service.
It should be remembered that this service provides a lifeline for many elderly people in sheltered housing, particularly those who, for mobility reasons, have difficulty using the main bus routes. It is an excellent service and I am anxious to ensure it is continued for the benefit of the elderly people it serves.
“The Fairer Scotland Fund grant that helped support the introduction of the Friendly Bus will come to an end on 31 March 2010. This has lead to the rumours floating around about the service being axed. DCC (the City Council) will be able support the operation of the Friendly Bus in the short term to ensure continuation but I think we definitely need to review the service in the medium to longer term – and perhaps look at the possibility of registering some elements of the service or speaking with the big supermarkets (as your e-mail suggests).”
I had suggested that the funding gap could be addressed in the longer term by possible registering the Friendly Bus routes (allowing people to use their concession passes on the bus, with part of the cost of the service then being financed through the national travel concession scheme) and by speaking with the supermarkets about how they could assist getting elderly and disabled residents to their stores.
Whilst I am pleased there are assurances on the immediate future of the “Friendly Bus” service, it is very important that it is given long-term funding security as it is a vital service for many elderly Dundee citizens.
It was a very pleasant evening and, in addition to our own success in the awards, it was good to see the great work undertaken by the other groups across Dundee who won the other award categories.