ANNUAL membership fees and hire charges for use of equipment are among the changes to be considered as part of a review of Cambridge City Council’s Shopmobility service.
The review is being carried out to ensure the service can continue to operate and provide assistance for people with reduced mobility visiting the city centre, despite a loss of funding.
Shopmobility currently operates at no charge for customers from Grand Arcade and Grafton East multi-storey car parks, whereas most similar services in the UK charge their users.
Among the features of the Shopmobility service are:
- The hire of mobility scooters and mechanical wheelchairs to people who need assistance in getting around;
- Collection of customers from Dial-A-Ride and local bus stops;
- Escorted shopping trips of up to two hours;
- Three hours’ free parking for all Shopmobility customers.
Shopmobility costs £165,000 each year to run. In 2016 Cambridgeshire County Council withdrew the £49,500 of funding they had previously provided to help fund the service. Since then the shortfall has been paid from the city council’s General Fund.
A reportto Environment Scrutiny Committee on 16 January outlines two possible options for Shopmobility to cover the loss of contributions from the county council:
1. Maintain all the current services and subsidise the full operating costs of £165,000;
2. Introduce annual membership fee and hire charges for equipment (with reduced rates for regular users) while maintaining the shopping escort service, collections from Dial-A-Ride and bus stops and the three hours’ free parking for all Shopmobility customers.
Introducing an annual membership fee would bring the council into line with the vast majority of other Shopmobility services elsewhere in the UK. It is estimated that introducing charges will raise income to enable all of the current services to be continued.
The hire charge and membership options will be considered by councillors. Customers of the Shopmobility service will be given information about any potential changes to the service via the Shopmobility website and posters in Shopmobility offices and will be encouraged to provide feedback.
Customers can also email email@example.com or complete a comments form at either of the Shopmobility offices.
Cllr Kevin Blencowe, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport, said: “Shopmobility provides a service that is valued by many residents and visitors to the city, and we look forward to continuing to provide the service in the future. However, since the county council ended its grant, we have had to look at new ways in which we can do so.
“I would encourage anyone who uses Shopmobility, or relatives of our customers, to let us know their views on the options for how we should provide the service in the future.”