Express & Star

'Victory!' – Disability campaigners celebrate 11th hour victory stopping axe of Shopmobility

Victory! Disability campaigners are celebrating after their campaign to save a "lifeline" service was saved at the 11th hour.

Last updated

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276

Sandwell Council announced hours before the budget was passed at Tuesday night's full council meeting it was withdrawing its proposals to axe the Shopmobility scheme.

Last week disabled users and its three staff based at New Square, West Bromwich, were shocked to find out the council planned to close the service in August.

The council had claimed the service was being axed due to dwindling post pandemic numbers and too many out-of-towners using Shopmobility's 40 scooters.

Due to the importance to everyone who uses the scheme a campaign was launched immediately to raise awareness about the importance of the scheme to the most vulnerable in society.

Users claimed they would be 'prisoners in their own home' without the freedom of being able to use the mobility scooters to go shopping and socialise in West Bromwich.

Protesters were planning to submit a 300 signature petition to the council meeting last night, whether they were allowed to or not. The budget was only published in full on Thursday, meaning it was a race against time to stop the proposal.

Ray Nock, former Conservative group leader in Sandwell and now a Reform Party General Election candidate, spearheaded the campaign.

He told the Express & Star: "This is an amazing victory, the leader of Sandwell Council Kerrie Carmichael spoke to me before the meeting and assured me Shopmobility is safe for this year.

"Next year, might be another story but we have to remember this will mean those disabled people who cannot get about will not be prisoners in their own homes, some of the stories I've heard in the last few days are heartbreaking.

"Just trying to get disabled people to Oldbury Council House on public transport tonight was impossible, if this campaign has done anything I hope it has shone a light on how we treat disabled people in this country."

The council's axing of Shopmobility, which was founded in 1988, would have saved £53,000 this year and £106,000 every year for the next three years.

Independent Councillor John Tipper is pleased with the council U-turn.

He said: "I am glad Sandwell Labour Group have done the compassionate thing and is not scrapping Shopmobility.

"£50,000 in a budget the size of Sandwell's is the equivalent of a minor accounting error."

Shopmobility user Ray White, who collected 300 signatures for a petition, said: "I will not be a prisoner in my own home now Shopmobility is not going to be scrapped.

"We were going to fight and fight, I'm glad we don't have to anymore."

Councillor Bob Piper, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, revealed the service was safe this year.

He said: “Like other councils, we face significant financial pressures as a result of rising demand for our services at the same time as our costs are going up. This means we must always consider the most efficient and effective way to deliver services.

“We will always listen to our residents on proposals put forward as we set our Budget."

He added: “Following the feedback we have received from those who use our Shopmobility service, we will withdraw the proposal to close this service in the coming financial year (2024/25).

"Over the coming months, we will engage and consult with the people who use the Shopmobility service and will explore options for the future of the service."