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Minibus charity’s shock end

PASSENGERS around Bognor Regis have been left confused after a transport charity’s shock closure.


It was announced on Wednesday that Sammy Community Transport had made its last journey.


A statement issued by its directors said: “After 47 years serving the community, Sammy Community Transport (incorporating Arun Coordinated Community Transport) is to close its doors. Recent months have shown a decline in reserves as parts of Sammy showed lower income and indeed in certain areas losses were sustained.


“Rather than struggle on in this environment and eventually letting people down, and also respecting concern that staff would have not known their future, the directors have decided, with much regret, to stop running the organisation as it is.”


The news was greeted with dismay by members of the Laburnum Centre in Lyon Street.


Centre manager Sarah Smith said between 15-20 members daily used Sammy. “I don’t know how they are going to get in because it has been their lifeline,” she said.


Rose Green resident Lily Mann, 88, began to use the charity’s vehicles in 1991. “I stopped for a while and started using them again five years ago. They bring me to the centre and take me home again on Mondays and Wednesdays,” she said.


Her friend, Jean Denn, 82, of Aldwick, said: “I will be isolated terribly if I can’t come to the centre on Mondays and Wednesdays. I also use Sammy to go a hospital appointment on Wednesdays and shopping for food on Thursdays.”


North Bersted resident Brian Waynam, 83, used Sammy every weekday to visit the centre for at least ten years. He said: “It will be a pain Sammy not being there but I will just have to get round it. I’ll get a taxi if I have to.”


Statistics at Sammy’s last annual meeting last July stated it had 7,235 members the previous month and they travelled 102,152 miles.


Sammy was formed in 1973 when a Bognor Regis businessman, Samuel Jay, left money to buy a minibus. It absorbed a similar service in Chichester in 2012 and merged with Arun Coordinated Community Transport last year to have nine minibuses and two wheelchair accessible cars.


They were driven by 30 volunteers and eight paid drivers. Another 30 voluntary drivers used their cars.


The statement from Sammy said the need to pay staff for office work as well as driving in recent years had pushed some journeys into losses.


Tougher laws had also driven up expenses, coupled with declining grants from councils. New laws which would mean chaperones for trips and a proposed licensing structure for drivers would have created an unacceptable burden.


“It is hoped that smaller localised parts of the roles undertaken will start up again once all is clear,” the statement added. “While this will undoubtedly be disappointing news to our many clients, and sponsors, please be assured that we will do everything possible to determine if we can once again rise to the challenge.”


Sammy left its North Bersted premises last May for Tangmere and was also based at Ford.

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