A LEGAL wrangle over whether Swindon Council unlawfully forced Dial A Ride not to bid for transport contracts within Swindon remains unresolved.
The management group of Swindon Dial A Ride met with Swindon Council cabinet members at the end of last week to discuss the dispute and the longterm future of the service.
The meeting came a week after Swindon Council performed a U-turn on proposals to cut £50,000 from Dial A Ride’s £331,000 funding.
Although spared in the short term the service will still be reviewed this year as part of Swindon Council’s evaluation of its entire transport strategy.
On Friday the management group met with council leader Rod Bluh and cabinet member for adult social care Coun David Renard to discuss a range of issues, including the controversy of over contracts.
Bonnie Walsh, of the management group, said: “They said they would go away and find out why we have been told over the past few years that it’s against EU law for us to bid for transport contracts.
“Our understanding was that would only be true if we were a business.”
The debate centres around EU legislation that excludes authorities funding private businesses. According to Swindon Council’s Labour group, which raised the issue at Thursday’s full council meeting, the same legislation would make it illegal for Swindon Council to subsidise the service. Labour councillors have pointed out that other Dial A Ride groups around the country are funded by councils yet continue to bid for transport contracts.
Coun Bluh said he would be raising the matter with the borough solicitor. He said: “We had an extremely positive meeting. The issue of Dial A Ride’s ability to bid for contracts was discussed in detail. We will now be looking into the matter.
“I have arranged with Dial A Ride for key members to visit their premises and have asked them to work with us to help us cut our costs. We are not averse to giving them more money if they can deliver more for us.”
Mrs Walsh agreed that the meeting had been positive but said the group was still left wondering what the future would hold.
She said: “We were able to give them a lot of information and get our point of view across. Now they have said they will look at that information and we are waiting to find out what they will suggest.”
Swindon Dial A Ride provides a transport service for elderly and disabled people. For more information about the service go to www.dialarideswindon.org.uk