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Bus group in petition plea

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
Bus group in petition plea

FEARS that a lifeline community transport company could fold within a year have sparked a petition.

The Annandale Transport Initiative (ATI), based in Lockerbie, are urging locals to sign a petition to help save their service.

As a recognised charity it supports community groups and elderly, disabled and isolated residents in and around Lockerbie, Moffat, Annan, Gretna and Langholm with their transport needs.

Largely dependant on funding from Dumfries and Galloway Council, the ATI have been dealt a financial blow following the council’s decision to reduce the maximum funds they can appeal for, though area committee funding, from £50,000 to £20,000.

Manager Janet Saunders said: “We are contacting all our members for their support in signing our petition which is seeking adequate funding from Dumfries and Galloway Council.

“We have received funding for our services through the Annandale and Eskdale Area Committee and until 2015 the financial sum was sufficient to keep us going.

“In the last couple of years we have had a dispute with the committee about its scoring process which is used as a percentage to reduce the funding awarded.”

In 2015 the group sought £50,000 and scored 85 per cent, resulting in a £42,500 grant, while last year they scored 68 per cent and took home just £34,000. They challenged the sum but to no avail.

And now funding woes have gone from bad to worse as the maximum the Initiative can now apply for has dropped by £30,000, to £20,000.

Janet said: “ATI’s services are under threat as we face a shortfall of at least £34,000 in 2017/18. Although we hold reserves we can only keep going for one more year with this level of funding.

“We urgently need the council to review how it supports community transport.

“Once a service such as ATI is lost it cannot be restored to the current level because the capital funding for the vehicles on this scale is simply not available.”

She added: “ATI has always believed that the funding for community support should be centralised and recognise the contribution of community transport in supporting the council’s transport strategy.

“There are moves to centralise funding but it may not include support for the type of service that ATI provides such as hires to community groups.”

A Dumfries and Galloway Council spokeswoman said: “Options on the maximum amount applicants could apply for were presented at this time to this committee and members reluctantly agreed to cap the maximum amount to £20,000.

“This decision reflects the severe financial challenges our council faces and subsequently the reducing budget available for Area Committee Discretionary Grants in recent years.

“Clearly any additional funding for one project would mean cuts to others, which we are sure the ATI are aware.

“We are sure the Initiative will present their petition to the Scottish Government who have reduced funding to the council.”

She added: “A report on a future model for community transport in the region will come before the council’s economy, environment and infrastructure committee in March.

“Community transport is important to the region and if organised correctly can play a crucial role in supporting local communities.”

■ The petition is available in the Lockerbie office and on all six of the ATI’s buses and their two cars as well as various locations around Lochmaben.

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