Armstrong welcomes increase to rural transport funding

Alliance Strangford Councillor Kellie Armstrong has welcomed an increase in funding for rural transport services provided by community transport charities across Northern Ireland.

The £600,000 increase, provided after the November monitoring round was agreed by the Executive, will alleviate pressures forced on volunteer-led community transport after a previous cut to grant support provided by the Department for Regional Development.

“Community Transport is seen as a lifeline in rural areas,” said Councillor Armstrong.

“It is often the only form of transport available to help rural people get out and about. But the 11 rural community transport charities have been struggling to deliver accessible services for isolated older people and people with disabilities in rural Northern Ireland on a vastly reduced budget.

“The budget cut coincided with the Department of Health’s reduction in non-emergency patient transport services, meaning more rural people turned to community transport for help to access services.

“In the previous budget, the Rural Transport Fund was ring-fenced and although the fixed annual allocation did not rise with inflation or with the increase in fuel prices, it was enough to ensure rural dwellers were provided with a transport option. However, once the Executive extended its budget, cuts of up to 40 per cent were made.

“I call on the Executive to once again ring-fence this money and help support the whole community transport sector, which has proven time and time again it delivers safe, accessible transport suitable for rural Northern Ireland.”

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