Go Start Community Transport relaunches passenger services amid ongoing uncertainty around future of Sudbury headquarters following collapse of Age UK Suffolk
A Sudbury-based community transport charity has pressed ahead with the return of its passenger services, despite continued uncertainty over the future of its headquarters.
Go Start resumed its Dial a Ride passenger services last week, and is set to bring back its Sunday trips for isolated residents this month, after adapting its vehicles in line with coronavirus safety regulations.
The Free Press reported last month on the charity’s battle to remain at the Chilton Centre in Martins Road, having sub-let its head office from Age UK Suffolk, which collapsed on July 24, citing the financial impact of Covid-19.
Go Start has since received nine suggestions from the community about possible alternative locations, but determined none of these would be practical.
Founder John Phillips stated the response has been very positive, but explained the charity ideally hopes to stay at its current premises.
However, it is understood that efforts to find a long-term solution have so far been unable to move forward, due to the existing tenancy agreement between the Chilton Centre landlord and Age UK still being in place, up to August 31.
Mr Phillips said he hopes another organisation can step up to operate the facility alongside Go Start, with the demise of Age UK Suffolk resulting in the loss of the long-running Chilton Club social group for elderly people.
“Ideally, we need to find a way to attract a new person or group to work with us to take on the role which Age UK have abandoned so casually,” he told the Free Press.
“It is the people who were attending the centre and now are even more isolated that attention needs to be focused on.”
He added that the situation has left Go Start out of pocket several hundred pounds, having paid three months of rent as a sub-tenant to Age UK, which he claims had, in turn, only paid to lease the Chilton Centre until the end of this month.
The Free Press has contacted Age UK for comment, but has not received a response at the time of going to press.
Despite these challenges, Go Start’s door-to-door services successfully restarted last Tuesday, and will continue to operate each Tuesday and Thursday.
The charity has also organised an outing to the Clacton seafront and shopping village on Sunday, and is working with a local pub to enable its passengers to utilise the Eat Out to Help Out scheme, which was launched by the Government this week.
“All vehicles have now been suitably adjusted and fitted out, in order that passengers can board and travel safely while maintaining safe spaces,” Mr Phillips said.
“This has not been a cheap exercise, for us or anyone else, of course.
“Fortunately, we have good support, with funding provided by Suffolk Community Fund, other local charities and the Department for Transport through Suffolk County Council.
“All five vehicles are now available and ready to use, but with seating capacity reduced to half normal seating capacity.”
For further information about Go Start and its services, go online to gostart.org.uk.