From the Northern Echo. 31st August 2010.

In the continuing series looking at how cuts across Darlington will impact on residents, Paul Cook reports on the threatened Ring-a-Ride service.

“THEY might represent a tiny fraction of Darlington’s near 100,000 population, but for Ring-a-Ride users, the service is a vital lifeline.

To mirror that tiny percentage, funding for the facility barely causes a ripple in the vast ocean of the council’s budget.

Yet, the service faces an uncertain and bleak future when funding ceases at the end of the year.

Ring-a-Ride has lived under a cloud for more than two years – its funding was to be withdrawn during previous budget reductions until it was saved following public consultation.

It took over five years ago from a former guise as Dial-aRide. It provides transport to 36 regular and 97 occasional users, elderly and vulnerable people, many of whom would otherwise be unable to leave their homes.

Ending its funding will save Darlington Borough Council’s budget only £6,000 this year and £25,000 per year afterwards.

The first customer was Judith Reed, from Bank Top.

Aged nine, she contracted polio which left her severely disabled.

Now 68, Mrs Reed says Ringa-Ride’s loss will create a real hole in her quality of life. She uses it for dentist and doctor appointments, shopping trips and weekly church worship.

Mrs Reed says: “The drivers become friends. They are very helpful and carry shopping in for me.

“I don’t know what I will do when it finishes. I will probably be stuck in, I can get to the park and back but that might be about it.

“The council is hitting the frail, elderly and vulnerable.”

Operator Darlington District Youth and Community Association is unsure how it will continue when funding ends in December.

Gayle Bentham said: “We are trying to think of every idea to keep our users, but our funding is being taken away.

“We provide much more than a taxi service. Sometimes we are the only people these people talk to each week. My heart breaks for all the people who use this vital service.”

The council’s cabinet approved the grant removal last month – two weeks after it gave The Forum music centre £6,000 to prevent it from closing.

Liberal Democrat councillor Anne-Marie Curry appealed for the cabinet to defer its decision.”…..

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