A REVIEW of Cambridge City Council’s Shopmobility service has resulted in a proposed reduction in charges by 50%.
The service, which operates from the Grand Arcade and Grafton East car parks, is core funded by the city council at an annual cost of over £115,000.
It saw membership fees and hire charges for use of equipment introduced in May to help cover the significant loss of additional funding from Cambridgeshire County Council of £49,500 per year that has ended.
Other services within the ShopMobility range remained free of charge, along with up to three hours’ free parking for service users.
When the charges were introduced the council promised to review the impact on the service after a period of months. This review has revealed a decline in the use of the service since the charges were implemented compared with the same period last year.
As a result, the council is proposing to reduce all charges, both for scheme membership and equipment hire, by 50% with effect from 1 September 2018 and are:
- Annual membership – £20 excluding VAT. £24 inc. VAT
- Membership hire charge – £2.50 excluding VAT. £3 inc. VAT
- Non Member – £5 excluding VAT. £6 inc. VAT
The vast majority of users (over 80%) are VAT exempted and will pay at the lower rates. Those who have already paid the £40 membership fee will be credited the difference when it is reduced to £20 – in effect giving them eight free uses.
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.
Cllr Kevin Blencowe, Executive Councillor for Planning Policy and Transport, said: “When we reluctantly introduced the charges in May we promised to review the impact of them after a period of months. We have kept that commitment and our review shows that since the original charges were introduced the use of the service has reduced beyond our original projections”.
“We know that this is a valued service for residents and visitors who use it and, as a result of the review’s findings, we accept we originally set the charges too high and plan to reduce both the charges and annual membership fee for the ShopMobility service by 50% from 1 September to bring our charges in line with those for comparable large schemes.
“We believe that the principle of introducing an annual membership fee and hire charges for equipment remains reasonable and it is something that has brought us into line with the vast majority of similar services in major towns and cities across the UK”.
“These revised charges will encourage more people to return to the service and take out membership, and all of the fees raised will be put back into the service.”
Shopmobility services cost £165,000 overall each year to run. Since Cambridgeshire County Council withdrew their £49,500 contribution, the funding has been met 100% by the city council.
Cambridge City Council is one of very few councils to also provide extra services such as operating a shopping escort and a dial-a-ride service for ShopMobility users.
The National Federation for ShopMobility says that 90% of councils now charge for the service – 126 out of their 140 members in the UK.