Cambridge Shopmobility set to become free service
Labour councillors at Cambridge City Council are proposing to scrap charges for the Shopmobility service from next April.
Subject to decisions at council meetings next month the service will return to a free service from the start of the new financial year.
The Shopmobility service, operating from the council’s Grand Arcade and Grafton East car parks, has seen a recovery in usage after charges introduced last year were reduced in September, but they remain at only 45 per cent of the previous year’s level.
There was 937 Shopmobility visits in the four months leading up to Christmas compared with 2091 visits for the same period in 2017 and as a result of councillors are proposing to end the charges altogether.
The range of Shopmobility services costs the council £144,900 a year and the charges in 2018 raised less than 10 per cent of the annual service outlay. This followed a decision by the county council to axe its funding which formed a third of the Shopmobility budget.
City council leader Cllr Lewis Herbert said:“The city council was left with a major problem following the decision by the county council to cut all its funding, leaving the city in a very difficult position.
“We have listened to service users and changed our policy. We know how highly valued Cambridge Shopmobility is by both visitors to the city and residents and, given the continuing usage falls, we plan to end Shopmobility charges from April 2019 and return to a free service.
"As the council promised, we have reviewed usage closely, and the fall of 55 per cent in recent monthly Shopmobility visits is unacceptable going forward. Charges have clearly proved an excessive obstacle to people who need and benefit from the range of Shopmobility services that we are committed to continuing to provide.
“We will propose that the council funds the amount that charging has generated from the general fund, and ensure that a quality free service is available to all people who need it to access Cambridge."
Cllr Gerri Bird, lead for disabilities on the city council, added: “We said from the beginning that we would review usage levels every quarter after introducing charges to make sure we were not unduly disadvantaging disabled people visiting the city centre. Given that usage is not working out as forecast, it is right to plan now to end the charges.
“The council will also be promoting the change to a free service ahead of implementation in April 2019, subject to it being agreed at meetings in February.”