Sir, - The community care association in Stokesley owns two minibuses purchased with money from the national lottery, which are specially designed to give easy access for the elderly and infirm, with a tail-lift facility for wheelchairs. The drivers of these vehicles are Midas-trained and particularly qualified in helping the disabled.

These buses are in daily use by the elderly from the outlying villages in the area, none of which are served by a regular bus service, transporting them to day centres, Alzheimer's clinics, luncheon groups, shopping trips and occasional excursions. Unfortunately this voluntary service is under threat.

Until now, Hambleton District Council has given financial support, but in June 2001, the grant may be severely cut, as it is to be replaced by a concessionary bus fare scheme. This may be an excellent facility, but will be of little benefit to those currently being helped by the CCA.

Few of the outlying villages are on a bus route and, even for those that are, times for outward and return journeys do not necessarily meet the need. Do buses that service even the larger areas of Stokesley, Great Ayton and Hutton Rudby have boarding facilities for the elderly and infirm? What about passengers in wheelchairs, is there anyone available to offer assistance? How do the infirm or housebound get to the necessary bus stop?

I attended the meeting of the Hambleton District Council as an observer when this scheme was discussed, and I was very disappointed to see that the majority of members failed to consider the travel problems facing the elderly. I was even more saddened that the voting on this issue was divided on party political lines and not based on consideration of the needs of all sections of the community.

I hope members of the council will quietly reflect on the effects of their decision; as it appears to be treated as a political issue, they may also give thought to the coming elections in May. Senior citizens form a substantial part of the electorate and are very unhappy at the prospect of losing an important and necessary facility.


Tanton Hall Farm,


Voucher value

Sir, - There is much public concern in Richmondshire about the planned restriction to registered disabled people of the concessionary taxi voucher scheme.

The reason given for this change is that limited government support for the new North Yorkshire bus voucher scheme does not include support for taxi vouchers. However, many elderly people who are not registered disabled and who will not qualify for free taxi vouchers, particularly those who live in remote locations, have great difficulty making their way to the nearest bus stop, and so cannot benefit from bus vouchers. In effect, they will be left stranded.

The change in the scheme was pushed through by Independent and Conservative members at the January meeting of the environment committee of Richmondshire District Council. Residents are so worried that a petition is being raised in Leyburn to restore the existing much-valued taxi voucher scheme which provides reduced-cost taxi vouchers to all pensioners.

Last year a residents' panel was set up by the council specifically for consultation. So we were astonished that the leader of Richmondshire District Council, Coun John Blackie, with some of his Independent colleagues, voted to defeat a motion to consult the residents' panel about the changes. We were glad to note that some Independents lived up to their name and voted for consultation or at least abstained.



Members for Leyburn and Bellerby, Richmondshire District Council