BOSSES of a vital transport service for the elderly told how it is surviving thanks to the goodwill of fundraisers.

Iris Brown, transport manager of the Castle Point Social Car Scheme, said things had been incredibly hard since Castle Point Council pulled funding for one of its two drivers this year.

The service, which carried thousands of elderly and vulnerable passengers to and from social clubs last year, has managed to keep both drivers on the road, thanks to donations.

However, February is looking less hopeful. Mrs Brown said: “We’ve managed to raise enough to pay for the driver for January and we will have to do the same next month.

“It’s an ongoing problem, but we can’t go on like this and we hope to reach a new deal with the council.”

The scheme requires £500 per month to pay the extra driver and Mrs Brown thanked the Castle Pub, in Hadleigh, after patrons raised £700 at a charity evening last month. Daniel Timms, team leader at the pub, said he was shocked by the council’s decision.

He said: “The council should be backing this scheme. It shouldn’t have to rely on people’s goodwill.

“It’s a vital service for a lot of old people and we want it to keep going.”

Meanwhile, the directors of the scheme are in talks with Castle Point Council to try to secure funding until April 2011, when the current contract expires.

The council, which runs the scheme in partnership with Essex County Council, took the decision to withdraw funding because its buses are old and often ran half empty.

However, the authority has met with managers of the scheme to see if some form of new agreement can be reached.

David Marchant, Castle Point Council’s chief executive, said: “Discussions are ongoing between the council and the organisers of the scheme to reach agreement regarding the future provision of the service. It is not possible to provide further comment until these discussions have been concluded.”

Castle Point Council spent around £42,000 on the service, while Essex County Council forked out £35,300 last year. This year Castle Point Council has cut its contribution to about £21,000.

The funding pays for the scheme’s drivers, administration, fuel and maintenance costs.