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Suffolk County Council urged to drop plans to cut school transport after consultation results leaked

Suffolk County Council have proposed making cuts to school transport in order to save money (2049898)
Suffolk County Council have proposed making cuts to school transport in order to save money (2049898)

A council is being urged to abandon plans to cut school transport in Suffolk, after receiving strong opposition in an official consultation.

The results of Suffolk County Council's consultation, led by Cllr Gordon Jones, showed that more than 90 per cent of the 3,600 people surveyed opposed the proposals.

But county councillor Jack Abbott, spokesperson for education, skills and ICT, said that the results were 'overwhelming but not at all surprising' and he suspected the council would still 'push ahead' with the plans.

"The council have known for some time that there's huge opposition, not just from children, parents and teachers but from Tory backbenchers as well," he said.

"The really disappointing thing is that they've been telling people they are listening but Thurston Community College gave an alternative proposal, which would have saved as much money if not more, and that's not even been looked at."

The consultation, which ran between December 12 and February 28, asked parents to consider three options, as part of its plan to save money after it was revealed more than £21 million of tax payers' money was spent on school transport every year in Suffolk.

Option one would see all changes to school travel made at once in September 2019, option two would phase in the changes year by year as a child joins or moves schools and option three would make no changes to school travel and make savings elsewhere.

The results of the consultation, which were leaked on Tuesday, showed that option three was supported by around 75 per cent of those surveyed.

Green councillor Robert Lindsay said: “Gordon Jones has told the council many, many times that he was conducting a consultation and would listen to the public. The public have now given a resounding 'no' so I hope he will now listen.

"To ignore the result of the consultation would be an insult to the 3,600 people who took the trouble to fill out the survey.”

He added: "The council say the move is designed to save money but they have done no proper research into whether it actually will. In fact, there is a strong chance they will end up having to spend more because they are likely to have to send separate buses to the same village.

"Thurston Community College has developed an alternative proposal which shows they can save £230,000 a year, without disrupting or removing school transport for any of their pupils. This is potentially more savings in one single catchment area than the county's plan will realise across the whole of Suffolk. This seems to have been entirely ignored by the Council.”

Helen Wilson, principal of Thurston Community College, who encouraged parents and pupils to vote against options one and two, said: "Cllr Jones said many times that he wanted to hear what people thought of his ideas through the consultation. We hope that now he has heard their response, the Cabinet will agree to drop these plans and instead work with schools and parents to find other ways of making school transport more efficient.

"It would be a poor start for the new leadership if one of its first acts was to ignore such an overwhelming response."

A council spokesperson said: "We've conducted a thorough consultation on our school and post-16 travel proposals because it's such an important decision affecting thousands of people and involving over £21 million of taxpayers' money. Those results are currently being analysed and will be reported in June, alongside all the other information we have available, so that our Cabinet will be able to make an informed decision in public."

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