Parents worried about threat of transport cuts
Anger at county council’s proposed changes to school bus policy
Earlier this month, Bucks County Council launched a consultation on proposed changes to home to school transport.
The amount of money Bucks County Council gets from central government is going down, and by 2018 it will have disappeared completely, plus there is a greater demand on the council’s children’s and adult social care services.
As a consequence, the council says it is being forced to look elsewhere for savings, and that includes how it gets children in Buckinghamshire to school because it currently provides more than its statutory requirements.
The council says if it changes its School Transport Policy, to bring it in line with what it is legally required to do, it should save an estimated £0.5million.
Concerned parents from Chalfont St Peter, Seer Green and Gerrards Cross, whose children go to school across the county including in Amersham, have criticised the consultation.
They say it has only been one year since the last ‘tranche of discretionary transport cut’s were implemented during which the then cabinet member for education and skills Councillor Mike Appleyard ran meetings to explain the rationale.
School bus routes have since been combined where appropriate in a cost cutting exercise and under 16s now pay £599 per year for a discretionary seat and sixth formers pay up to £1,000.
However, the parents say that at one public meeting, Mr Appleyard was recorded saying that the last set of cost-saving measures now made the service close to breaking even financially for the paying children.
In a statement, they say: “As such it was with much surprise that parents now find that the council is seeking further significant and far-reaching reductions.
“The incongruence of these proposed cuts with the council’s previously stated ‘close to break even’ position can only raise major doubts about the need for further changes. We completely understand there had to be budget cuts previously. But this is now just one year down the line and it feels as if the schoolchildren of this county do not matter and the wider issues of safety, sustainability and congestion are being conveniently ignored.
“[If the changes go ahead] it is a massive amount of children and parents that will be drastically affected.
“Local villages will face untenable increases in traffic both morning and afternoon. Parental car transport will increase dramatically with any changes and will cause congestion plus a substantial decrease in safety.
“It should be noted that public transport, due to many years of cuts of its own, is either non-existent, incorrectly timed and completely insufficient to accommodate many thousands of additional passengers.”
The parents added they would like the council to show how it is complying with Government’s Home to School Transport Statutory Guidance 2014.
The parents’ statement added: “As Buckinghamshire parents have experienced before, BCC is charging forward showing no respect for the safety of our children, no joined up thinking with regard to sustainable transport policies, no interest in the wider impact on our local communities and from what we have been informed no apparent reference to its legal requirements.”
The parents have called on the council’s new cabinet member for education and skills Councillor Zahir Mohammed to provide a ‘detailed and hopefully consistent’ response to their concerns.
A County Council spokesman said: “We’re spreading our home-toschool consultation net as widely as we can, because we want parents.
“We want to hear parents’ views on a proposed policy change to bring the remainder of our free transport into line with statutory policy to save money.
“And we’d like parents to tell us whether they want us to continue paid-for transport and, if so, how this can best meet their needs without running at a deficit
“We’ve not made any decisions and we want the consultation feedback to inform our decisionmaking process, which is why it’s so important for parents to complete the survey and tell us what they think.”
The consultation until Friday, July 15. to listen to runs