Disabled shoppers in Sheffield have been hit by the sudden closure of a charity which rented out wheelchairs and mobility scooters.
Shopmobility Sheffield was a volunteer-led ervice which had been running for more than two decades and provided vehicles for hire from its outlets at Crystal Peaks shopping centre and on West Street in the city centre.
It closed suddenly this week, with no warning for the many users who relied on the service, around a year-and-a-half after its council grant was axed.
A volunteer at the charity, who asked not to be named, said: “We’ve tried to keep our heads above water since losing the council funding, but it got to the point where we could no longer afford to keep going.
“We were told on Friday that it was closing. We're all gutted and we can't apologise enough to our customers.
“Obviously the council has had to make cuts and as one of the small fish in a big pond we were always going to be affected.”
The council announced last year that it was ending Shopmobility’s £14,000 a year grant after the charity lost out to private firm Clark and Partners in its bid for a new tender.
Clark and Partners launched a similar service called Mobile Sheffield, funded by the council and Sheffield Business Improvement District (BID), which continues to operate from The Moor Market.
Shopmobility Sheffield said at the time that it had 10,000 registered users and in 2016 had processed 16,000 loans.
A volunteer said user numbers had dwindled since then, after the funding cut forced it to raise prices, but he said it remained a popular service - especially at Crystal Peaks.
Eric Colley, who requires a mobility scooter to get around, had used the Shopmobility service at Crystal Peaks for more than a decade.
“I used it every Friday and there are lots of other people who relied on it to do their shopping, but sadly Sheffield doesn't look after its disabled people,” said the 91-year-old former wages clerk, of Norfolk Park.
Bosses at Crystal Peaks said they were saddened by the charity’s closure and were looking into providing a replacement.
Lee Greenwood, the centre manager, said: “We're very sorry for the Shopmobility staff and volunteers who worked so hard and offered a great service to Crystal Peaks visitors over the last 21 years.
“Unfortunately the lack of central funding has contributed towards them not being able to offer services anymore.
“We appreciate this will cause problems for some of our customers and we are looking at ways we might be able to provide a similar service in the future.”