Herefordshire Council cabinet to have a say on proposed changes to school transport today (From Ledbury Reporter)
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Herefordshire Council cabinet to have a say on proposed changes to school transport today
6:01am Thursday 19th December 2013 in News
HEREFORDSHIRE Council’s cabinet will today (Thursday) get a say on raising charges for school and college transport.
If cabinet backs the plan, free home to school transport for students to their nearest - or catchment - school would be replaced with free lifts to nearest schools with places, and in England, only.
However, students in year-10 or year-11 would be able to continue with the current arrangement so they can complete their study programmes.
For students who are not eligible for free transport, the council's subsidy would be reduced and the annual charge would rise from £660 to £720.
Free transport would be withdrawn for Herefordshire post-16 students with Special Educational Needs (SEN) and be replaced with an annual charge of £720 from April 2014.
Post-16 transport would also go up to £720 next September – with annual reviews each September to take account of operating costs.
The plan does come with a commitment to review the implications of these changes annually, or sooner in the event that the impact of the proposed changes is materially worse than anticipated.
Councillor Tony Johnson, leader of Herefordshire Council, said: “The meeting will discuss significant changes to council services, which we appreciate will not be welcomed by all residents.
“It must be stressed, however, that we simply cannot continue to deliver the same level of services with ever decreasing government budgets and as such hard decisions will need to be taken to address this.
“The council needs to save £33million over the next three years, on top of savings of £34million already made over the previous three years, to not only balance the budget, but to meet its priorities of protecting the vulnerable elderly and young people and investing for the economy, housing and jobs.”
Jon Best, a parent of one of the children who would be affected, said the proposal still looks like a “cynical” approach to deliver a short-term cash injection by exploiting the parents of children already at school.
He added: "I understand that the council is under pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiency, but this superficial proposal fails to deliver long term savings and grossly overestimates the potential savings.
"As such, I do not believe that this significant change in policy can be passed, based on such an inadequate analysis of the issues.
"In the longer term, the continuing obligation to provide free travel to the nearest school means that there will be no on-going financial benefit.
"The only significant change will be to replace the official catchment areas with ‘effective catchment areas’ based on distance; although school admissions will presumably still be based on the official catchment areas.”
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