ALMOST half-a-million pounds has been set aside to provide scooters and cycles to help people in rural Flintshire get to work.

Workwise is a project in place across Flintshire to help those in rural areas access employment and study opportunities.

The scheme involves the six-month loan of a bicycle or scooter as well as the employment of two part time scooter co-ordinators.

Also included are free travel cards and advice on how to travel to work.

Concerns have been raised about the high costs of the project, with councillors at a meeting of Flintshire Council’s environment and scrutiny overview committee arguing the money could be better spent elsewhere.

A target figure of £478,904 has been allocated to spend on the scheme, part of the Rural Development Plan for Wales running between 2007 and 2013.

The amount includes £146,573 for a scooter co-ordinator and £131,000 on scooter running costs.

Caergwrle councillor Stella Jones, said: “The cost seems very high, it’s the costs for buying the scooters and the staff which worry me.

“There is support available through the government to help these people get back into work. Could this money not be better spent elsewhere?”

So far £118, 354 has been spent on the Workwise project, which is promoted in Jobcentre plus and Careers Wales offices in Mold.

Most of the funding for Workwise comes from the Welsh Assembly Government and European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, with Flintshire County Council contributing £5,000 to the scheme.

“Whether the money comes from the council or the Welsh Assembly, it’s still tax payers’ money,” Whitford councillor Chris Dolphin told the Leader.

“I am certain some of the people who have the scooters could have afforded them anyway, a lot of people in rural areas are quite wealthy.”

But Matt Wright, Flintshire Council’s executive member for regeneration, said: “I’m told the scheme is very popular amongst areas in the north of Flintshire. We need to do anything we can do to support training and employment.”

Niall Waller, the council’s economic development manager, said: “We recognise the scooter scheme is quite expensive.

“There is a lot of provision out there from the Welsh Assembly to help people get back into work, this project is to help them understand what are the right bits of support for them.”