Honiton charity forced to close shop to save money

PUBLISHED: 14:00 25 September 2017 | UPDATED: 09:20 28 September 2017

Neil Hurlock and Tony Wiltshire in the TRIP shop when it opened in 2014. Ref mhh 9204-49-14TI. Picture: Terry Ife.

Neil Hurlock and Tony Wiltshire in the TRIP shop when it opened in 2014. Ref mhh 9204-49-14TI. Picture: Terry Ife.

Archant

TRIP, based in New Street, opened the outlet on the side of its offices in December 2014, where it sold a variety of mobility aids such as scooters, walking frames and accessories.

A Honiton mobility charity has been forced to close its shop due to mounting financial pressures.

TRIP, based in New Street, opened the outlet on the side of its offices in December 2014, where it sold a variety of mobility aids such as scooters, walking frames and accessories.

However, almost three years on, the charity says it has to ‘tighten the belt’ and shut the shop as it looks to keep the costs its operations as low as possible.

Neil Hurlock, manager of TRIP, said: “We are pulling out of the shop because we have not done enough business to encourage keeping it.

“With the added complications of losing NHS funding and upcoming consultation for Section 19 and 22 permits [under the Transport Act 1985], we decided we would have to tighten our belts for a while.”

TRIP lost a substantial part of its income after its role as a central booking agency was ended last year.

Before it was axed, the charity received an annual fee to act as a telephone advice centre for patients looking to access transport across Devon.

However, the NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group opted to make all bookings for non-emergency transport in Devon be taken on by a new central booking service – the Patient Transport Advice Service (PTAS).

At the time, Mr Hurlock told the Herald that the lost fee accounted for around 15 per cent of the charity’s annual income.

TRIP was dealt another potential blow earlier this year when a letter by the Department for Transport revealed that the government is set to consult on a raft of alterations to existing legislation for all groups using a Section 19 permit under the Transport Act 1985.

This permit, under which TRIP operates all of its vehicles, allows charitable and not-for-profit groups to offer transport services at a reduced cost.

The DfT warned in its letter that an operator whose activities mirror that of a bus company, in that it employs salaried drivers and carries out services under won contracts, cannot be regarded as carrying its activities ‘exclusively for non-commercial purposes’.

As a result of this, the DfT added, operators cannot operate any vehicles under a section 19 permit as it ‘falls outside the scope of the derogation’.

This means TRIP could be forced to consider the way it is run if it wants to carry on with any commercial work.

Mr Hurlock said TRIP’s offices have been moved around to retain items it can sell.

He added: “Our ultimate responsibility is to our service users, so we are cutting back where necessary to make sure our Ring and Rider and voluntary car services, which so many people use, can continue to operate.”

The now-closed shop, in New Street, is being marketed by Bradleys estate agents.

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