Email sent before decision to scrap free school buses
APRESS release saying Cheshire East cabinet members had approved plans to scrap free school buses was sent to some cabinet members six hours before the decision-making meeting had started, it has been revealed.
The Cabinet voted to reclassify five routes to schools and withdraw free transport for a total of 500 students from April 2017, including a route along the Middlewood Way from Bollington to Tytherington.
However the ‘final draft’ document, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, was emailed from the council’s press office to four Conservative councillors at 8.35am on October 18 – the same day of the 2pm cabinet meeting where the final decision was taken.
The council maintains drafting such an email in anticipation of the outcome of a meeting is standard practice carried out by many local authorities.
But several councillors asked why a separate press release was not also drafted in case the cabinet decided to keep the buses on safety grounds after it had heard the arguments from campaigners at the meeting.
Bollington councillor Amanda Stott said: “I feel disgusted that residents and children all gave up their time for the meeting and it appears to make a mockery of the whole process.”
Headteachers and pupils travelled to Sandbach on October 18 to attend the meeting and protest outside the council’s HQ in a bid to save the buses.
They say the route – which includes the Middlewood Way – is a poorly lit, disused railway line with high embankments and no escape route if a child was being pursued by a predatory adult.
Manny Botwe, headteacher at Tytherington School, said: “I was very disappointed to hear that a press release was sent to cabinet members before the decision-making meeting had taken place.
“I am bitterly disappointed that the safety of our youngsters has not been prioritised.”
A Cheshire East Council spokesman said: “Press releases may be drafted in advance of cabinet or full council meetings in anticipation of a particular outcome based on the recommendation in the report the meeting is to consider. This is to assist the press and public to obtain a full explanation of the decision as quickly as possible. The draft press releases are based on the recommendation in the report and that will not necessarily be the final decision by council or the cabinet.
“If the recommendation is not approved, then a fresh press release would be issued explaining the council’s position.”
A special meeting to discuss the review will be held on Thursday, February 23, at Sandbach Town Hall at 11am.
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