Future of Darlington Bike Stop uncertain after funding loss

A social enterprise in Darlington is facing an uncertain future after losing vital funding.

The blow to Bike Stop comes at a time of rising costs and reduced sales in the wake of Covid-19 and the economic crisis the country is facing.

The enterprise, based on Skinnergate, was formed by the charity First Stop Darlington in 2012 with the aim of helping the community.

Since it was formed in 2012, Bike Stop has supported people with a range of complex needs such as mental health issues and the apprenticeship scheme has been life-changing for some.

More than 121 disadvantaged people have gained work experience and training with Bike Stop and 31 of these have remained with the enterprise for many months.

Bike Stop employs five members of staff including a female bike mechanic, with the team servicing and repairing up to 25 customer bicycles a week and recycling ten to 20 donated bikes per week too.

The shop stocks a range of new and upcycled bikes and accessories and is always on hand to take in more unwanted bicycles.

The donated bike scheme has been a huge success and has stopped 3,490 bikes going into landfill and resulted in hundreds of families having affordable bicycles.

However, as the social enterprise marks its 10th anniversary, it has lost a government funding stream of around £50,000 and now the organisation is in dire need of financial support if it is to continue.

Tracy Freeman, CEO of First Stop, said: “Losing this much-needed funding has created a huge gap in our cash flow, which for any business is hard to recover from, add that to the current economic environment it is becoming a major difficulty.

“As a not-for-profit entity, we do not have any scope to reduce shareholders profit as we don’t have shareholders, all our funds remain in the organisation.

“The team works incredibly hard and Bike Stop does such incredible things.

“For example, during the pandemic we loaned 47 bikes to NHS staff and carers in Darlington, we provide puncture repairs in the town for wheelchairs, prams and pushchairs as there is nowhere for people to go for help.”

Bike Stop retail manager, Rob Archer, said: “Over the last ten years, Bike Stop is a lifeline for a lot of our customers.

“It’s become a vital community hub and our Cytech trained mechanics are exceptional.

“To lose such vital funding after two years of Covid uncertainty is a huge blow.

“We need new sales and funding/sponsorship more than ever and we would just love people to know more about what Bike Stop actually does.”

To find out more about Bike Stop and how you can support them, visit their website bikestop.org.uk.

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