Suffolk County Council has launched its controversial new rural community transport model, against a background of funding cuts.
The new model has one lead contractor in each area with a single point of contact, rather than multiple contractors.
The changes were controversial and involved a 50% funding cut phased over four years. The opposition Labour group claimed they were pushed through by the council's Conservative leadership without consulting existing passengers and disability groups, or listening to providers.
The council said the move is part of a major transformation plan ‘to connect communities with the services they want and need’.
It said transport services would be delivered by local organisations that have many years of experience delivering services across Suffolk and working together with the local communities they support.
Cllr James Finch, cabinet member for highways and transport said: ‘We have listened closely to the communities that use the services and have undertook full impact assessments to understand the challenges faced by different users.’
He added: ‘I am really pleased with how the new services are being provided. I had been frequently told that the previous system for using services was very difficult for people to understand, we have now changed that, there will simply be one phone number for residents to use to get the service they need in their community.’
Wendy Shepherd, a representative of the Suffolk User Forum for Mental health, who attended a launch event, said: ‘I was pleased to hear that consideration has been taken to include all members of the community that find themselves isolated or having difficulty with transport regardless of age.
‘It will be helpful for those to remember only one telephone number and it is good to hear that those delivering the service are working in partnership to ensure best practice is shared.’