Row over Stoke Ferry car programme

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A parish council has defended its stance towards a community car scheme in its village, despite formally acknowledging it has never run it.

Questions have been raised about the management of the programme in Stoke Ferry, which is intended to help villagers get to doctors’ or hospital appointments.

And, while the project’s co-ordinator insisted the scheme had been a success, he said a public meeting should take place for villagers to determine its future.

The parish council resolved to set up the scheme, which is led by two of its members, in March 2012.

But, despite that, it is run as a separate organisation, something that was not formally clarified until Wednesday evening’s council meeting.

And resident Judith Taylor also called for answers about the parish council’s subsidy of the programme.

The meeting initially heard that service users currently pay two-thirds of the 45p a mile charge for journeys, with the parish council contributing 15p.

But it was then stated that the council set aside a £500 donation to the programme, of which not all the money was used.

John Nicholas-Letch, the scheme’s co-ordinator, said none of the money allocated to the scheme in the current year had been used, while less than half of the amount allocated last year had been drawn upon.

He admitted that he does not submit the scheme’s accounts for external auditing, but maintained that he would not have a problem with doing so.

And he added: “The whole thing needs to go to an open forum for the village to decide what they want to do.

“We have got a very successful car scheme that helps people.”

But Mrs Taylor said: “If you’re taking taxpayers’ money, you need to know where it’s gone.”

Another resident said she objected to public money being used to subsidise trips that she felt were affordable for all at the full rate.

However, Carol Hardy, who was elected as the council’s new chairman during the meeting, insisted the scheme had never been treated as a “special case” for financial support from the authority.

Mrs Hardy succeeded Daphne Clements, the assistant co-ordinator of the car scheme, as chairman. Sue Lintern was elected as vice-chairman.