Users of cash strapped disability scooter hire service in Northampton ask council to reinstate funding

A Shopmobility user who depends on the service to travel in the town
A Shopmobility user who depends on the service to travel in the town

A 270-name petition has been handed in to Northampton Borough Council asking it to reinstate funding for a mobility scooter hire service.

Shopmobility, a scheme run by the Northampton Door to Door service, which hires out the vehicles to more than 400 people per year was told in April that the £22,000 it previously received from Northampton Borough Council’s Partnership Grant Fund (PGF) has been reduced to £11,000.

Most reasonably sized towns in the UK have a Shopmobility service. If we lose it, it will be a great loss.

Chairman of the board of trustees at Northampton Door to Door Service Sam Towell

Funding for the Door to Door service itself has also been drastically reduced.

But at Monday night’s full borough council meeting, users of the service handed in a petition asking the authority to reinstate the funds.

Manager of Shopmobility Keith Goodwin, said the petition shows the strength of feeling towards the service, which he said if lost, could leave some people “prisoners in their own home.”

He said: “We knew several people spoke at the meeting to say how opposed to the grant cut they were.

“I would ask the council to rethink its decision, there is big grounds for protest here.”

In May Mr Goodwin said the funding cut could force Shopmobility to close by Christmas.

But this week he has revealed Northampton Door to Door Service is on the verge of securing a £10,000 fund from the Northampton Community Foundation to prop up its funding shortfall this year.

However he said the money will only act as a ‘stay of execution’ until a more permanent revenue stream can be found.

Former Northampton South MP Tony Clarke, spoke at the meeting on Monday night to argue £11,000 represented only a fraction of the £550,000 earmarked yearly in the Partnership Grant Fund.

“It’s incredible that the council could risk turning so many people away from using the town centre over such a measly sum as £11,000.”

And chairman of the board of trustees at Northampton Door to Door Service Sam Towell, has issued a call for the borough council to reinstate the funding.

He said; “It’s a valuable service to those that use it, but it is also a valuable service for the town.

“Most reasonably sized towns in the UK have a Shopmobility service. If we lose it, it will be a great loss.”

Councillor Brandon Eldred, the council’s cabinet member for community engagement said: “Every year our Partnership Grant Fund invests over half a million pounds in helping support a range of local agencies, charities and community groups.

In May cabinet member for community engagement, Councillor Brandon Eldred (Con, East Hunsbury) said The borough council’s PGF has an overall budget of £550,000, which they have this year split across 24 community organisations set up to support people in Northampton.

“We always have difficult decisions to make as we look at how our funding can best help people in Northampton as every year this fund is oversubscribed,” he said.

“Even if an applicant is unsuccessful in getting the full amount they have applied for, as in this case, we will work with them to look at alternate sources of funding.”

Shopmobility costs around £25,000 to run per year and monies not covered through council funding are generated through donations, session fees and fundraising.