THREAT TO FREE TRAVEL

Bud­get cut warn­ing to those us­ing school trans­port

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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