THREAT TO FREE TRAVEL
Budget cut warning to those using school transport
FREE transport to school for pupils across the county could be under threat as Bucks County Council attempts to balance its books.
With government funding dwindling – and expected to disappear completely from 2018 – and a growing demand on the council’s children’s and adults social care budget, the local authority is looking at where it can cut costs.
In 2012, the council agreed, in certain parts of the county, to continue to fund free school transport for pupils who attend their nearest Buckinghamshire school or one that had a strong pattern of preference from the local community.
But legally the county council is only obliged to provide transport to the nearest secondary school for those eligible for it and if Bucks changed its School Transport Policy to bring it in line with what it is legally required to do, it says it could save an estimated £0.5 million.
A consultation period was launched on Tuesday to seek views on proposed changes to the home to school transport service. The consultation runs until July 15.
The council will also be looking at changes to fees charged for those pupils ineligible for free school transport whose parents buy and annual pass.
The council said it knows that some families like to use and pay for its school transport services when they are not eligible for the free service, even where there are alternative public bus services. This includes students who live outside the county but who attend a Buckinghamshire School.
For under-16s who live in Buckinghamshire, the council charges the same whether you are travelling three miles or 15 with an annual pass for the 2016/17 academic year, costing £599.
The council said it does not make enough money from providing this service to cover its costs and as a discretionary service, it is over and above what it is required to do.
The council is looking for feedback on whether there are alternatives it can explore to provide the service in a sustainable way. The council’s cabinet member for education and skills, Cllr Zahir Mohammed, said: “We appreciate this is a sensitive subject so we’re keen to get opinions from as many people as we can.
“By giving us your views, we can hopefully find a way through these issues that’s agreeable to the majority of parents, carers and residents.”
Visit www.buckscc.gov.uk/schooltransportconsultation to have a say.
You can hear more from Cllr Mohammed at www. getbucks.co.uk.