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NEWSLETTER No 57 SPRINGTIME - May 2011

Dear Members,

We have just entered a new Financial Year, which may prove to be one of the most challenging South Beds Dial-a-Ride has ever had to face. Our main funders are local councils, and they are under great pressure to find savings to balance their books. There is almost bound to be a knock-on effect in our service, but we are doing all we can to ride the storm. The road ahead may be tough though, as savings will need to be made each year for the next 3 years or so.

Meanwhile, we continue to try to do more, with less. Demand is continually increasing for our service. We made over 34,000 trips in 2010 (up 10% on 2009) and are regularly receiving over twice the calls per month as we did in 2009! It is no surprise that occasionally things go a little bit wrong, but I am proud of what the staff at South Beds Dial-a-Ride are achieving, and we know you are too.

MORE NOTICE PLEASE?

I am sorry to repeat this as I said exactly the same in the last newsletter, but we still have many members calling our bookings desk for journeys on the same day, or the next day.  Yes, we are a “Dial-a-Ride” service, where you “Dial” us to make a booking, and we arrange a “Ride” for you.  However, we are currently receiving up to 1,000 phone calls per month, so we deliberately wait until the day before the journey day to plan our routes to try and fit in as many journey requests as possible.

We need AT LEAST TWO days notice of your journey.  The more notice the better. Otherwise you may be disappointed and have to find another more costly way to travel – or not travel at all.

There are times, very rare at present but they do happen, when we simply have more requests than we have space available at the time and on the day. We are having to disappoint more people, and we are sorry, but we are doing very well in fitting in so many journeys. So far the maximum we have failed to provide is only 7.

CHARGING FOR FARES IN 2011

From April 1st we have been collecting fares on behalf of Central Beds Council (CBC). This has gone really smoothly for our office admin staff, our drivers, and thanks also to you, our members, for being ready with your change. Please, though – not too many £20 notes if you can help it?

Luton BC still have nothing to report on their plans for making savings or for charging. There may be no change until 2012.

We do hear comments on our buses made by both Luton members who feel it is unfair they do not pay for trips when their CBC neighbours have to. There are also comments from CBC members who feel it unfair they are paying when their Luton neighbours are not. If you feel strongly about this, please make your views known where it matters. Please write to your local councillors directly, or write to us and we shall pass them on.

ANSWERING MACHINE

We have finally obtained an operating manual and did get our answering machine working again for a short time, but I’m afraid it is not cooperating again, so you still cannot leave messages. Sorry.

COFFEE MORNING

Our last Coffee Morning in November was a great success, and we have managed to book the same room we used in Red House Court in Houghton Regis for our next get together. This will be on Saturday May 14th at 10am. Please book early on 01525 220044 to avoid disappointment. If the weather’s fine we can open the doors for ventilation and even use the garden as well.

MANAGEMENT MATTERS

At our April Management Committee meeting, the proposal was put forward to include representatives from our service users onto our committee, so we can hear directly from our membership, and our membership can also help steer our future direction.

There was also a proposal to invite members to start a “Friends of South Beds Dial-a-Ride” group to support us further. If you are interested in either of these ideas please get in touch with me.

A further thought was to invite members to the AGM on 22nd June 2011. There are a number of logistics to consider based upon the interest we receive, e.g. Where to hold it? What time? How many members wish to get involved? Again, please feed back to me if this interests you.               

Compiled by Dave Barratt – Coordinator

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