Charity mobility scooter hire shop saved from closure

ROTHERHAM’S only charity-run mobility scooter hire shop for pensioners and the disabled has been spared from paying rent for six months to keep it from closing.

Commissioners governing the borough council approved the move for the volunteer-run Ability Shopper at its council-owned town centre building.

Hilary Cahill, one of the volunteers running the “lifeline” shop, said they could not afford the rent of £5,000 plus VAT every year.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She said the shop was a vital resource for elderly and disabled people as it was the only place to hire or buy mobility scooters in the town centre after Shopmobility closed a few years ago.

“We can afford everything, bar the rent,” said Mrs Cahill, whose husband Patrick and Christina Hammond, both 79, are the oldest volunteers.

“Some of the old people were in tears because they wouldn’t be able to get round town at all if we closed — it really is a lifeline.

“We put in for some grants but one we didn’t get and we’re still waiting to hear about the others.

“We really thought we would have to close.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But after contacting John Healey, parliamentary candidate for Wentworth and Dearne, the group received a letter from the commissioners allowing them to operate rent-free until the autumn.

A year ago, the owner of Parkgate Mobility, Steve Hilland, stepped in at the last minute to pay the rent and save the shop when they hit the same problem.

Mrs Cahill went on: “I contacted John Healey and then I got a letter from the commissioners saying that we could run the shop rent free for six months. It was such a relief.

“It’s the only thing in Rotherham for disabled and pensioners to get them out and about independently so they can go round and do their shopping.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“After Shopmobility closed, I didn’t go out for four years because I couldn’t get round town.

“This place is very close to my heart and we will keep fighting to keep it open  because it is so important to people’s lives.

“Giving us six months rent-free will give us time to find money from somewhere else.

“It will give us a breather to try and find the money. At least it will mean we should be able to raise the money to pay the other six months of the year to stay open.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“It’s all done by volunteers. We rely on the younger ones to move the scooters about and that’s how we keep going.”

Two years ago, Ability Shopper did receive a £10,000 Big Lottery grant to buy new scooters which have been rented out over the last 12 months.

Parkgate Mobility shop also helped by giving it concessions on goods.

Previously, the council had said it was not in a position to let its properties rent-free because of the financial climate and emphasised it was unrealistic to expect the authority to subsidise the ongoing costs of organisations where funding had dried up — even in the case of good causes and charities.