Par­ents wor­ried about threat of trans­port cuts

Anger at county coun­cil’s pro­posed changes to school bus pol­icy

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - NEWS -

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

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