Don’t use this as a stepping stone to primary travel arrangements says MSP
Bob Doris MSP has called on South Lanarkshire Council not to use proposed changes to free secondary school travel as a stepping stone to changing primary school provision as well.
The Glasgow MSP was speaking the week after he and Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP, Margaret Ferrier, lodged motions in their respective parliaments against the plans.
Plans to change the primary provision from one mile to two miles were shelved by councillors before this year’s budget was passed in February.
But, pointing to changes in the Glasgow City Council area, Mr Doris said: “These plans are both potentially unsafe and unfair for families.
“If the Council are prepared to make this move to secondary school children, then who’s to say they won’t come back next year and erode the service for primary school kids? After all that’s what their colleagues in Glasgow are doing- axing both services at the same time.
“I have spoken to a number of parents who are struggling to come to terms with these changes and have sought clarification from the council who continue to be opaque including the proposed ‘safe walking routes’ that often travel along busy roads during the busiest times of day.
“Even at this late stage I would urge South Lanarkshire Council to think again.”
Margaret Ferrier MP added: People haven’t been properly consulted and the concerns of many are being ignored. Labour-led South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) seem determined to implement these changes, with little regard for those affected.”
“Pupils, parents, and our public transport network, are not prepared for these ill-conceived plans and I urge SLC to halt these proposals.”
Council leader, Eddie McAvoy, said proposed changes to primary school provision had been delayed until the 2016/17 budget.
But he told the Reformer this week he didn’t think they would be changed: “I have got some reservations about that.
“It is in the savings for this year but put back to next year, but will the council implement it? That’s up to the councillors but I do not believe the council will take that option.
“Only eight councils out of 32 do not apply the legal limit including three run by the SNP or with the SNP in coalition, so why don’t the SNP politicians ask them to change their rules?”
Lynn Sherry, Head of Education at South Lanarkshire Council, said: “A statutory consultation took place over the period March 16 to May 13, 2015, during which time consultees were invited to make their views known.
“Following this period Education Scotland also considered the proposal and has recently made their report available to the council.
“A consultation report is currently being finalised which takes account of the responses that have been received. This final report will be completed and made available through the council’s website on July 10, 2015.” Margaret Ferrier MP has accused South Lanarkshire Council of failing to consult with a major bus company with regards to the proposed changes to secondary school bus travel.
The Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP met with First Bus’ Lanarkshire Business Director Margaret Maye last week to discuss the issue.
She said First Bus have only now been provided with expected impact numbers from the council.
Ms Ferrier said: “After meeting with First Bus to discuss this matter, I am dismayed to learn that SLC have failed to consult with them to allow them to carry out a travel impact assessment.”
However, Lynn Sherry, Head of Education, said: “In terms of the proposal to amend the criteria for free transport to school for secondary aged pupils from two miles to three miles the council has engaged with parents, families and other stakeholders, including SPT who are responsible for negotiating school bus contracts.
“The council did ensure SPT were informed of the proposed changes to school transport provision and understand that SPT wrote to contractors to advise them of the proposals and the potential projected pupil numbers affected within their area.
“This was to let transport providers know the potential impact and for them to consider and make commercial decisions about local routes.
“This was also a commitment the Council gave to parents during the public meetings which took place during the consultation period.
“However, it should be noted that the Council cannot make decisions on the viability of public bus services.”
Meanwhile, parents will find out the result of the consultation exercise carried out by the council on Friday ( July 10).
This will be made available to parents on the council website.