A SCOOTER scheme that provides transport to people who would otherwise struggle to get to work is set to be extended.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen has pledged to extend the Wheels 2 Work scheme for another three years past March 2021.

An additional £645,000 has been proposed to help increase the number of vehicles from the current 60 available.

Since it was first established in 2018, the programme has helped more than 150 people across the Tees Valley travel to work or training.

One beneficiary is Josh Earl, 27, who has been using a scooter to get from his home in Guisborough to his job at Whitby Seafish Ltd in Staithes.

The dad-of-two and stepdad-of-three said: "A friend was giving me lifts to my previous job but when he left, I needed to find my own transport as I didn’t have a car.

"Another mate suggested Wheels 2 Work and I thought there was no harm in giving them a ring.

"If I didn’t have this scooter, I’d have to travel on at least two buses on top of a 15-minute walk, so it’s saved me a lot of time, which I can spend with my partner and our family.

“Obviously, I don’t want to be using this forever – I’d eventually like to buy my own bike or, as a family man, I’d rather have a car.

"But as everyone knows things have been a bit tight recently and I was planning to do driving lessons but then Covid lockdown hit, so this has kept me going during that time.”

Mr Houchen said: “We’ve heard from lots of people like Josh about how this scheme is improving their lives, not only by giving them the ability to gain more skills or access work to earn more money for themselves and their families, but also by helping them achieve a healthy, quality balance between work and home life.

“My plan for jobs is creating good-quality, well-paid roles across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, but this plan only works if we have accessible and affordable transport in place for people to access these opportunities.

"The ongoing coronavirus situation has made things more difficult than ever and Wheels 2 Work can provide a valuable alternative to public transport or private cars."

The proposal will go to the Tees Valley Combined Authority cabinet for approval next week.