A charity that provides elderly and disabled people with transport claims it has been “forced” to stop running bus services in West Berkshire.

ReadiBus says it will stop providing a dial-a-ride bus service in Newbury and the surrounding areas on April 16, after West Berkshire Council slashed its funding.

The council states community transport funding has not been cut since 2019, but ReadiBus is now receiving a smaller share of that funding “because they are delivering less passenger journeys relative to other providers”.

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The Conservative-run council provided ReadiBus with a £45,761 in 2018/19, but by 2020/21 its funding had been cut to £13,134.

The charity says it expects to receive just £5,000 in 2021/22.

Professor Sophie Bowlby, chair of the ReadiBus board, said the charity has been “forced into a position where to continue is no longer viable” as it cost over £50,000 a year to provide services in West Berkshire.

The charity also claims it has not received any grant funding since September 2020, because the council is “withholding money”.

It claimed the council will not release the funding until trustees sign a contract with a “gagging clause” that prevents them from making any public statements about the funding cuts.

Shirley Edwards, 89, said: “I think what West Berkshire Council is doing to ReadiBus is disgusting.

“I use ReadiBus several times a week and I don’t know what I am going to do once it is gone. ReadiBus drivers know each passenger very well and all their needs and requirements."

According to the council, it will continue to provide community transport operators in West Berkshire with £50,000 grants, but the operators must sign a service level agreement.

A council spokeswoman said: “The service level agreement included standard clauses on confidentiality that the council would expect from its service providers.

“These are not gagging clauses. It merely ensures that service provider notifies the council before any information concerning the agreement is put in the public domain.

“ReadiBus has declined to sign the service level agreement.

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“During the last year, ReadiBus has delivered significantly less passenger journeys than were originally anticipated due to the lockdown – around 2,000 compared to 12,000 in the previous year.

“Despite this and ReadiBus not signing the service level agreement the Council has paid ReadiBus half of the grant (£6,566.93).

“The council is very keen to work with ReadiBus to understand the impact on its client base and to ensure where possible there is continuity of service using other community transport operators.”