A HALVING in charges for Cambridge City Council’s ShopMobility service has been confirmed.
Charges for the ShopMobility daily scooter/wheelchair hire and annual membership were introduced on 8 May, as part of the council’s budget.
In 2016 Cambridgeshire County Council withdrew their funding contribution for city council ShopMobility services, which operate from the Grand Arcade and Grafton East car parks. The value of this contribution was £49,500.
The city council covered the shortfall for two years, but there was a need to consider alternative forms of funding to continue the service at the level provided, given the council’s financial position and the ending of core government grant in 2019.
The charges were accompanied by a commitment to monitor the effect of them on use of the service.
A monitoring report, based on the sound evidence provided by three months of data, indicated a decline in the number of customers using the service.
As a result, the council revised charges to half the original level with effect from 1 September.
Charges are now:
- Annual membership - £20 excl. VAT. £24 incl. VAT
- Membership hire charge - £2.50 excl. VAT. £3 incl. VAT
- Non-member - £5 excl. VAT. £6 incl. VAT
Cllr Kevin Blencowe, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport, said: “I believe the principle of an annual membership fee, and charging for the hire of equipment, remains reasonable as it brings us into line with the majority of similar services in other towns and cities across the country.
“With a loss of funding from the county council we had to look to the longer term and do something to make up the shortfall.
“Having reviewed the effect of the charges, we could see there was a significant impact and that is why we have halved the service charges.
“The council is fully committed to providing ShopMobility and having taken these steps we hope it will encourage more people to return to using this excellent service in the weeks ahead and in run up to Christmas.”
The charges contribute to maintaining important features of the ShopMobility service, including:
- The hire of mobility scooters and mechanical wheelchairs to people who need mobility assistance;
- Collection of customers from dial-a-ride and local bus stops - those who have disabilities that impact on their mobility receive support to move between the dial-a-ride bus stops, allowing them to access ShopMobility;
- Escorted shopping trips of up to two hours - this service helps people with disabilities who need personal assistance to access shops and shopping;
- Three hours’ free parking for all ShopMobility customers.
ShopMobility services cost £165,000 each year to run. Since Cambridgeshire County Council withdrew their proportion of funding in 2016 the shortfall has been met from the city council’s General Fund.
Cambridge City Council is one of very few councils to operate a shopping escort and dial-a-ride service.
The National Federation for ShopMobility says that only 14 of 140 members in the UK currently provide their service free of charge or on a donation basis.
A report on the ShopMobility service charges was included on the agenda of Planning and Transport Scrutiny Committee which met on 2 October.