Changes to school catch­ment ar­eas

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - NEWS -

A de­ci­sion to re­duce some sub­sidised bus ser­vices to help bal­ance the city coun­cil’s books has been crit­i­cised by op­po­si­tion lead­ers.

The cash-strapped coun­cil is plan­ning to end or re­duce “un­der-used” Sun­day evening and Bank Hol­i­day Mon­day ser­vices which it cur­rently sub­sidises Stage­coach to run.

The cut, an­nounced in the author­ity’s lat­est set of bud­get pro­pos­als, amounts to £150,00 of a cur­rent spend of £715,000 for sub­si­dis­ing “com­mer­cially un­vi­able” bus routes.

The move will help the coun­cil make nearly £11.5 mil­lion of sav­ings as it re­sponds to huge pres­sures on its fi­nances as a re­sult of a £45 mil­lion re­duc­tion in its gov­ern­ment grant and mil­lions of pounds of ris­ing pres­sures from look­ing af­ter chil­dren and adults in care.

Other bud­get mea­sures an­nounced last Fri­day at 5pm in­clude sav­ing around £1 mil­lion from a re­mod­elling of adult so­cial care, an over­haul of the coun­cil’s IT sys­tem and plans to change school catch­ment ar­eas.

The coun­cil has yet to re­veal which bus routes will be af­fected by the cuts, but said one of them cur­rently costs £9 per per­son to sub­sidise.

How­ever, leader of the coun­cil’s Lib­eral Demo­crat group Cllr Nick Sand­ford de­scribed the sub­sidy as good value for money.

He said: “The bus sub­sidy cuts in this bud­get are deeply wor­ry­ing. Cur­rently we have an in­te­grated net­work of roughly hourly evening ser­vices that has op­er­ated for nearly 40 years, and en­ables peo­ple to make trips across the city for work and leisure.

“Cut­son­thescalepro­posed will de­stroy the net­work and cause real hard­ship to thou­sands of city res­i­dents.”

Green party coun­cil­lor Julie How­ell said cut­ting the sub­sidy, and pro­pos­als in the bud­get to re­move a va­cant En­vi­ron­ment Cap­i­tal role at the coun­cil, fly in the face of the author­ity’s green as­pi­ra­tions.

She added: “An ‘un­der­used’ ser­vice is not nec­es­sar­ily a use­less ser­vice. For many peo­ple who rely on buses, fre­quent and pre­dictable ser­vices are key to the main­te­nance of in­de­pen­dence, and good phys­i­cal and men­tal health.

“These ser­vices are not about fill­ing ca­pac­ity, they ex­ist to pro­vide a safety net for those who do not drive cars, and it is right that the coun­cil should sub­sidise them.”

But, Cab­i­net mem­ber for re­sources Cllr David Seaton said: “Quite frankly the routes are not be­ing used much, and a sub­stan­tial amount of money is be­ing spent.”

Speak­ing on the bud­get as a whole,coun­cil­lead­erCll­rJohn Holdich said: “It most cer­tainly is a bold plan. Through shar­ing ser­vices with nearby au­thor­i­ties like Cam­bridgeshire County Coun­cil and re­mod­el­ing teams to make sure they work in the most ef­fec­tive way pos­si­ble, we are con­tin­u­ing to drive ef­fi­cien­cies.”

Labour group leader Cllr Shaz Nawaz said: “These cuts are deep, far reach­ing and should be un­nec­es­sary if the Con­ser­va­tive Gov­ern­ment funded lo­cal gov­ern­ment prop­erly. The ap­proach is one of manag­ing de­cline as op­posed to build­ing the city of the fu­ture.”

The coun­cil’s fi­nances have been hit by £6 mil­lion of ad­di­tional pres­sures in the last six months. The vast ma­jor­ity of that is due to hav­ing more chil­dren in care. The cur­rent pro­pos­als are for the 2019/20 bud­get which is be­ing pro­duced in three sec­tions spread out over a year.

The first tranche of pro­pos­als agreed back in July in­cluded set­ting up sep­a­rate park­ing and en­vi­ron­men­tal crime en­force­ment teams.

Should the lat­est sav­ings be agreed at Full Coun­cil in De­cem­ber, that will leave an­other £3 mil­lion of sav­ings to be made be­fore next April. To com­ment on the pro­pos­als, visit the coun­cil’s web­site or pick up the bud­get and a ques­tion­naire at the Town Hall or Ba­yard Place re­cep­tions, or from any of the city li­braries. The catch­ment ar­eas for pri­mary and se­condary schools in Peter­bor­ough are set to change. The bud­get doc­u­ment in­cludes plans to re­view the catch­ment ar­eas to “en­sure shorter routes” for chil­dren go­ing to school. This is ex­pected to save the coun­cil up to £50,000 a year from a re­duc­tion in trans­port­ing chil­dren to school. The coun­cil said it has not started for­mally analysing how catch­ment ar­eas will change. An­other pro­posal is to make an ex­tra £10,000 a year from unau­tho­rised ab­sences. The coun­cil wants to bring in an ex­tra per­son to re­spond to a rise in re­quests from schools to is­sue penalty

‘The bus sub­sidy cuts in this bud­get are deeply wor­ry­ing’

no­tices where par­ents re­move their chil­dren from school for an unau­tho­rised leave of ab­sence. More­over, the coun­cil ex­pects to save £40,000 a year by of­fer­ing more staff the chance to take ei­ther un­paid leave or an­nual leave on De­cem­ber 27, 28 and 31. This is dif­fer­ent to Cam­bridgeshire County Coun­cil which said last week it is forc­ing all but the low­est paid staff to take three days of un­paid leave on those days to help cut its deficit.

The city coun­cil will also now al­low staff in its Peo­ple and Com­mu­ni­ties de­part­ment to work dur­ing school term times only, with a lower salary.

Cllr Nick Sand­ford

Cllr David Seaton with a copy of the bud­get

A Stage­coach bus in op­er­a­tion

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