Controversial school transport cuts are approved
Controversial cuts to school transport have been approved by Suffolk County Council.
The authority's cabinet today agreed to implent the changes on a phased basis from September 2019, which will see pupils receive free transport to their nearest school from their first year.
It was the second of three options considered by the public during a consultation and was opposed by more than 80 per cent of those surveyed.
Cllr Matthew Hicks, leader of Suffolk County Council, said: "We can be in no doubt that we face significant financial challenges across the organisation.
"There are difficult decisions to be made as part of this and every effort is made to understand the issue, consult with our communities and listen to the views we receive to understand the impact of any decision we take.
"We are not alone in facing theses difficult choices, every council in Suffolk and across the country faces an ever reducing budget.
"To protect our statutory services and continue to offer such a wide range of services to Suffolk’s residents, we need to look at the policies surrounding school and post-16 travel which were introduced a long time ago.
"If we chose to do nothing, the cost of school and post-16 travel would increase to £45million a year in the next decade and this is something we simply cannot afford.
"The recommendations, which have been approved by cabinet following such a comprehensive consultation process through which we have listened to the concerns and considered the views of service users, schools and other stakeholders do consider how changes would impact communities and the education of children and their families.
"It has been tough, but I believe the balance is right. We now have a school travel service which is much more affordable, sustainable, and able to meet the growing future demands of Suffolk."
Cllr Penny Otton, spokesperson for education from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, hit out at the decision.
She said: “Despite an overwhelming rejection of option two by the public, the Conservative administration are ploughing ahead regardless.
"I am outraged that they don’t seem to value the education of rural children, and are simply refusing to listen to the valid concerns of parents and schools.
"I fail to understand why they have not trialled the local solution put forward by Thurston Community College and other schools before making this drastic change.
"There is no doubt that rural communities will be harmed by this new policy. However, we sincerely doubt the savings presented in the report. Nothing good can come of this change.”
Cllr Andrew Stringer, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, said they will call in the decision to the council's scrutiny committee 'to show the administration the overwhelming number of issues we have identified'.
He added: "We are dismayed that the cabinet have decided to implement a change in school transport policy that will harm so many rural families."