Hertfordshire County Council is to bring in charges for transport to and from a number of day services  for the first time.

Under existing arrangements transport to and from 15 voluntary sector day activities in the county is free – even though there is no subsidised transport for the hundreds of other groups.

But on Monday (May 18) a meeting of the council’s cabinet agreed to bring in new charges.

From July those travelling to the 15 specified day activities will be charged a flat rate of £2 per journey.

And after 12 months,  from July 2021, they will be charged the same rate as users of other ‘dial-a-ride’ services, which makes a charge depending on the distance travelled.

Based on existing rates, that means passengers would be charged £2.10 for the first mile and 50 pence for each subsequent mile – meaning a three-mile journey would cost £3.10.

Backing the change at the cabinet meeting, executive member for adult care and health Cllr Richard Roberts said that the charges would start at a “relatively low fixed rate charge” so it didn’t deter users of the activities.

“We are setting in place proposals whereby for the  next  year we will have a relatively low fixed rate charge for those coming in to the ‘dial-a-ride’ system,” he said.

“This will start in July,  go through to next year and we think this is an easy ‘in’ to access of the ‘dial-a-ride’ system.

“What we don’t want  is those that currently access day services to decide that  it’s too expensive  or it’s too problematic for them to take part.”

Cllr Roberts said consultation on the proposals to introduce the charges had been “broadly supportive”.

He did acknowledge that at an earlier meeting of the special cabinet panel there had been some concern that it was "a step too far”.

But he said he thought plans to phase in the charge with a £2 flat fee was “very reasonable”.

The plans to bring in the charges were unanimously backed by the meeting of the cabinet. And they are now due to be phased-in from July.

The report to the cabinet shows that as part of the consultation concerns were raised that the transport charges could lead to people attending fewer or none of the sessions.

It was suggested that that could, in turn, lead to increased isolation and that some passengers with dementia may struggle to use money.

However, more than half (65 per cent) of the 110 people who completed a questionnaire as part of the consultation said they would continue to use the day services as usual – compared to 34 per cent said they would have to stop.

According to the report to the panel, it is estimated that in the first year of charging income to the county council would be £53,000. In the following year (2021/22) that figure would be £83,000.