Local Lib Dems have been shocked at Labour’s plans to start charging the elderly and disabled for use of mobility scooters in Cambridge city centre. In their budget proposals, recently published, they want to see a suspension of the the introduction of both an annual £40 membership charge and a £5 per trip fee for Shopmobility, which Labour wants to start from 1st April, in order to generate a saving of £45,000.
Labour themselves are admitting the new charges will result in at least a 20% fall off in usage, which Lib Dems feel runs counter to everything the council should be striving for, to achieve an inclusive city, especially to the more vulnerable members of the community.
Lib Dems want the Council to use the suspension to lead a thorough campaign to seek third party funding from businesses. They regard businesses as benefitting from disabled and elderly using this service to get around the city centre and that it’s a reasonable proposition expect they would put something back or even consider sponsoring the scheme.
Lib Dem spokesperson Cllr Damien Tunnacliffe says: “We know Cambridge is a prosperous place. That’s exactly why it should be the very last place to raise barriers to people who would have difficulty getting around town without Shopmobility. Instead of making a priority out of the special needs of disabled and elderly people, it is very regrettable that Labour are willing to sacrifice 20% of the current users who they accept will stay away - presumably just the people who have the tightest budgets.”
Lib Dem campaigner Owen Dunn from East Chesterton says: “Social isolation and loneliness are huge problems. The Council should be doing everything it can to help people with reduced mobility: to meet friends and do their shopping in the city centre just like anyone else can. These changes fly in the face of that. I thought Labour cared about this too, but now they're running the council they're actually making things worse. I'd like to see them putting the same energy into getting business support for Shopmobility as went into the Living Wage campaign. Our proposals give them that chance.”