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Wycombe's bid to be top in UK for disabled branded 'farce'
7:00am Tuesday 24th September 2013 in News
A PLAN to make Wycombe the most disabled friendly district in the UK has been branded 'a farce'.
Proposals were originally kick-started last September to improve life for residents with disabilities. But the work by Wycombe District Council has been slammed this week for making little progress.
Last year councillors hit out at 'morally reprehensible' taxi fares for wheelchair users as the action plan was enthusiastically voted through.
Councillors initially agreed to arrange a meeting with all taxi firms to attempt to bring about change. But after a year, WDC has only agreed that "the most appropriate course of action is to write to all operators in this issue", it said in a report.
Campaigners have cited a return journey from Marlow to High Wycombe as an example of high prices, saying £50 for a wheelchair-equipped cab is not uncommon.
Wycombe Labour said WDC's work so far on the project is not good enough.
Julian Grigg, a partial amputee and Labour's candidate for the recent Hambleden Valley by-election, said: "The whole thing is a farce. All the work of carrying out a review and making recommendations, some of which would make a real difference to people with disabilities, and a year later nothing happens.
"Just imagine someone in a rural area who is in a wheelchair.
"They rely on public transport because they can’t drive and can’t afford taxis.
"The local buses are adapted for wheelchair access. The drivers are trained to help people in wheelchairs onto the bus.
"But the kerb at the bus stop isn’t high enough to let the wheelchair on. And nothing is going to be done about this. It makes me so angry. "
The Improvement and Review Commission document addresses the bus issue, stating:
"Most low floor buses have ramps or can kneel at stops, though both the operators and ourselves recognise that, despite driver training, there are still some drivers who are not always using this facility appropriately.
"We are working with them to address this. We also recognise that infrastructure improvements such as hard-standing at rural stops, raised kerb heights etc would be of benefit at a number of stops."
But there is no money for this and a bid for capital funding for hard standing was not successful, it added.
The Free Press asked WDC if it is no longer planning to meet taxi firms and for its response to Labour's 'farce' claim.
WDC spokesman Sue Robinson said: "There has been considerable work put in since the initial Task and Finish Group and many of the recommendations have been completed.
"We embarked on these actions with a commitment to make improvements to the lives of disabled people living in our district. The update report is not the end of our work or our stated commitment - this work is still continuing."
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