Moutray calls for minister to reconsider cuts

DUP MLAs Stephen Moutray and Sydney Anderson at SELB HQ.
DUP MLAs Stephen Moutray and Sydney Anderson at SELB HQ.

There’s been a call for the minister responsible to think again about cuts to funding for Disability Action and community transport.

During a debate at Stormont, Stephen Moutray MLA called on DRD Minister Danny Kennedy to reconsider the funding his department provides to these vital services.

Mr Moutray stated:

“The services offered by Disability Action and by community transport play a pivotal role in our society today. These groups allow people to live independently, to play an active role in their local community and to also access vital services such as education and healthcare. There is a sense of widespread anger and hurt felt by many, because of the severe reductions to these services in the year ahead.”

Mr Moutray continued: “The grant available to partnerships to provide Dial a Lift services in rural areas has been slashed in real terms by £1.4 million for 2015-16. I am also significantly concerned at the disproportionate way these cuts have been implemented - with cutbacks ranging from a 25% reduction in funding for some transport partnerships to a 40% reduction for others.

“Furthermore, the Disability Action Transport Scheme provided by Disability Action has witnessed its funding reduced by over £630,000 or 21% by the Department for the year ahead. As a result of this, Disability Action have been forced into a position where they have had to increase fare prices and they have also had to decrease the hours when transport services are available.

“It is deeply unfortunate that this may lead to increased social isolation, particularly in rural communities. Within Upper Bann, we have seen Down Armagh Rural Transport (DART) Partnership left facing a 28% reduction in the funding they are to receive. I am particularly concerned about this because I know DART plays an important role in many constituents’ lives and is significant in holding the fabric of rural communities together throughout the area.

“I understand that DRD’s budget is under notable financial pressures for 2015-16, but the way the Minister has allocated his budget, in my opinion, has impacted harshly upon vulnerable communities and individuals who cannot afford to be impacted in such a way. It is now imperative that the Minister do all in his power to reinstate this vital funding for Disability Action and community transport.”