Consultation over school transport

editorial image

LANCASHIRE County Council is currently holding a consultation over proposed changes to its home to school transport.

LANCASHIRE County Council is currently holding a consultation over proposed changes to its home to school transport.

Proposals include an increase in the contribution parents already make towards transport to faith schools, a rise in school bus fares and a reduction in the number of people who qualify for free transport. However, those on low income will still receive support.

The county council currently spends £8.5m on providing home to school transport, but about half of that is “discretionary” – support provided in addition to what is legally required.

The largest chunk of discretionary spending is on transport for students who attend a faith school which is not their nearest school. A parental contribution of £380 a year was introduced in 2011, though this still left the county council bearing about 60% of the cost.

The plan is to increase this contribution by 25%, with a year-on-year rise after that based on the retail price index plus 5%.

Other proposed changes include reviewing taxi provision for pupils who live in remote areas not served by school bus routes, removing a previous eligibility to free transport when parents move house further away from school during exam years, and increasing school bus fares – for those not eligible for statutory transport – by up to 60p per return journey, depending on length.

There are also changes in how a pupil’s nearest school in terms of transport eligibility is determined.

County Coun. Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “We are currently faced with making unprecedented savings in the region of £300m and we must look at all of our spending, especially on services that we have no legal requirement to provide.

“I know that no one wants to either lose free transport or pay more for it, but unfortunately we are in the position of having to consult about these difficult decisions.

“For many years, the county council provided free transport when parents chose to send their children to a faith school which was further away than their nearest non-denominational school.

“We’ve also provided a lot of support for families who live in rural areas, or who move further from school when their children are studying for examinations.

“In our current position we need to look at all the discretionary transport we provide and also review fares for pupils who don’t qualify for statutory bus passes.

“In all of this, though, we remain committed to providing support to families on low income who are eligible.

“I would encourage parents and other interested parties to take part in the consultation and all of their views will be taken into account.”

The consultation runs until November 29th and the full documentation can be seen at: www.lancashire.gov.uk/haveyoursay or call 01772 531878 if you are unable to access the web.