A WOLLASTON pensioner is disappointed that a transport service, which allows her to maintain her independence is being hit by funding cuts.

Mae Bennett, aged 93, of Liddiard Court, has been using the Dudley Ring and Ride service for 19 years and said she "couldn't do without it".

She is one of 2,541 people in the borough, using the service, which transports people who find it difficult to use a conventional bus service due to mobility problems.

But due to Government funding cuts, Centro must make a saving of £14m over the next two years and as a result, the West Midlands Ring and Ride service could be forced to increase fares and run a reduced service.

Centro currently gives the West Midlands Special NeedsTransport (WMSNT) a grant of £10.5m a year towards the running of the service but that grant will be considerably slashed under plans to reduce expenditure.

Explaining what the service means to her, Mae said: "I'm disabled and walk with two sticks but I still want to be independent. I know the Ring and Ride will get me from door to door safely. If I didn't have this, I'd be dependant on my children to do my shopping."

She said that passengers currently pay 60p each way but after a group discussion, they have agreed they would be willing to increase it to £1 to keep the service on the road.

Centro is currently seeking the public's opinion on several money-saving proposals, from reducing the grant given to the service to withdrawing the funding completely from April and handing over responsibility of the service to the local authority.

Mae, who uses the service at least twice a week to go to shopping in Stourbridge town centre and Merry Hill, added: "It's always the elderly that get punished but it will be worth paying extra to still be able to do our own shopping, we can't do without it."

Des Rogers, WMSNT's service's operations manager, said: "Whatever happens a rise in the fare charged appears to be inevitable but to what level I could not say until we are informed of the proposed cuts."

Anyone who wishes to take part in the consultation, should submit their comments online at www.centro.org.uk/budgetconsultation by next Sunday (January 19).