Transport plans ‘going far too far’

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FAMILIES face a ‘quadruple whammy’ over plans to overhaul a home-to-school transport service, according to a county councillor.

Cllr Sandy Martin said the moves by Suffolk County Council – combined with separate plans to axe school crossing patrols, the Explore discount travel card and a reduction in rural buses – was ‘going far too far’.

He raised concerns at a meeting of the authority’s cabinet, which agreed on Tuesday to launch consultations with schools and families about the options being considered for the travel scheme in a bid to cut costs.

The proposals affect Roman Catholic pupils, children with special educational needs and post-16 students, who receive the service at the authority’s discretion.

Transport for these groups is provided on buses, trains and in taxis.

Among the plans, subsidised transport for Catholic pupils could be axed in order to save £160,000 a year. This would affect 125 pupils at St Benedict’s upper and 160 at St Louis middle schools, in Bury St Edmunds.

Changes to the authority’s policy for pupils with special educational needs include no longer providing transport for children who attend other schools or venues as part of transition arrangements or work experience.

Post-16 students could see an increase in their travel charge from £130 to £200 a term, which would raise an extra £220,000 a year for the council.

This would cover the cost of a reduction in charges to £100 a term for post-16 students of low income families.

During the cabinet meeting, Cllr Martin said these and other proposed measures would make it ‘extremely difficult’ for parents without cars to get their children to school.

Cllr Penny Otton said £200 a term for post-16 students was ‘a huge amount of money for somebody to have to fork out’.

Cllr Graham Newman, portfolio holder for young people’s services, said: “I’m very conscious of the difficulties we face. This is about launching a consultation, it is not final policy. It is suggested revisions to our policy. We will look at this again by April’s cabinet meeting so we can publish our policy document by May 31.”