West Lancashire MP, Rosie Cooper, has received many complaints and letters of concern about the future of West Lancashire Dial-a-Ride. The contract to provide community transport, currently held by West Lancashire Dial-a-Ride is being put out to tender by Lancashire County Council, who say they are required by law to have an open tender process for the contract to provide community transport.
Users of West Lancashire Dial-a-Ride are suspicious that this hurried process is simply a way for the County Council to award the contract to its own in–house transport provider Travel Care as experience in another LCC area has shown that where local providers compete against Travel Care, the County Council’s in-house provider, then the local providers lose out.
Following a meeting with Lancashire County Council and West Lancashire Dial-A-Ride, Rosie is now calling on the county council to stop their in-house transport provider from bidding to run the service in West Lancashire and allow West Lancashire Dial-a-Ride to compete with similar organisations to provide this much needed and valued service.
Rosie Cooper MP said: “I am calling on the County Council to show their commitment to local community transport providers who are a lifeline for many elderly and disabled people in West Lancashire. As a gesture of good faith, I’ve asked that they do not allow their in-house provider to bid for the contract.
“My concern is the county council’s in-house provider has an unfair advantage over smaller local providers and can spread their fixed costs more easily. This makes it impossible for small local providers to be able to compete fairly on an equal basis.
“West Lancashire Dial-A-Ride has been a vital lifeline for many groups of vulnerable people over 25 years. I am concerned that the county council are making a short-term cost saving decision that is not in the best interests of West Lancashire residents.”
This comes at a time when Lancashire County Council is bringing forward 10% budget cuts and making cost-savings.
Philip Walker, manager of Dial-a-Ride said: “Dial-a-Ride provides over 30,000 journeys each year for residents of our borough who cannot use public transport. We will travel to any address including remote rural areas.
“We are confident that as a community enterprise owned by those we serve we do provide a low cost high quality service.
“I can understand that Lancashire County Council may want to ensure the best value is being obtained for these vital community services. However we are concerned that personal, caring aspects of the service we provide won’t be included in a commercial contract. We hope that the County Council will guarantee that future contracts protect both the extent and quality of the services our community currently receives.”