Ipswich City Council will continue its City Heart Cabs program, which has been providing a subsidised taxi service for some residents since 2011, with the new council set to decide the long-term future of the scheme.
The program allows eligible members of the community to travel by taxi from their home to a local shopping centre for only $2 per person each way. About 50-70 people use the program.
General Manager of Community, Cultural and Economic Development Ben Pole said a comprehensive review of the program will be carried out to explore its purpose, benchmark it against other Local Government Areas, consider equity of access and to increase efficiency.
Mr Pole said a report presented to council recommended the repeal of previous council decisions relating to the establishment and structure of the program.
“It further recommends that a clear operating model based on community needs and council objectives with specifications for the potential tender of services for the program be developed and presented to a future meeting of council,” he said.
“The report also recommends that the program is endorsed to continue under current arrangements as an interim measure pending the replacement of those arrangements following an open and transparent tender process.”
City Heart Cabs is jointly funded by council and local shopping centres, costing about $15,000 a year.
It is designed around the premise that a member of the community who is in possession of an Age Pension, Disability Support Pension or Carer Allowance can catch a taxi cab for $2 per person per one-way trip. Depending on residential address, eligible residents can travel to Riverlink Shopping Centre, Ipswich City Square, Brassall Shopping Centre, Booval Fair and Orion Town Centre.
Five other councils, Logan, Sunshine Coast, Brisbane, Gold Coast and Toowoomba, run similar cab services.
“In short, other local councils do offer an affordable cab-style service very similar to the program. While the delivery of their programs are similar to that of our own, the governance and processes associated with these programs differs and the funding allocated to these programs varies widely, from between $10,000 and $200,000.”
The report said that while council receives monthly invoices from the taxi company, including receipts for the journeys, no documentation is received by council confirming the eligibility of users of the program.
Council willalso investigate where other shopping centres might benefit from the program.
Mr Pole said City Heart Cabs would continue under current arrangements as an interim measure, with specifications for the potential tender of the services for the program be developed and presented to a future council meeting.
“Offering a subsidised transport program is of value to our community. It can help lower the risk of social isolation by encouraging people to leave the house safely and at low cost.
“The program offers the opportunity for social interactions, provides access to health services, retail options, employment, volunteering and importantly community participation. It also provides the opportunity for vulnerable members of the community access to a range of local supports, leisure and recreation programs while continuing to live independently.
“We will develop a clear operating model based on community needs and council objectives with specifications for the potential tender of services for the program,” he said.