HEREFORDSHIRE Council is being asked to think again on a decision about school buses that could drive Ledbury youngsters away from town and out of the county altogether.
County councillor Liz Harvey has called the decision in for a formal review after the council’s cabinet decided to offer free transport to schools out of the county if those schools are closer to the children’s homes than the nearest catchment school in Herefordshire.
If families do not take the option, they each face a huge financial bill running into hundreds of pounds a year.
However, the council has stressed it needs to make savings of £33 million in the next three years and currently provides more than it needs to.
Coun Harvey said: “John Masefield High School estimates that this could mean that as many as 40 or more children a year in families living in their catchment in the east of the county, such as Colwall, Cradley and Bosbury, will lose their right to free transport and may opt to go to Chase or Dysons rather than come to JMHS.
“This will have a huge impact on the school’s finances and sees the crazy situation that Herefordshire Council is putting on free transport to take Herefordshire children out of county right at the time that the council is saying its young people are in short supply and are important to the economic future of the county.”
Coun Harvey believes this is unfair, that the consultation was inadequate, and the decision sends out the wrong signal about Herefordshire’s future.
She said: “The changes impact the transport for children, primary and secondary, living more than three miles from their schools and post-16 special educational needs children travelling to school or college.
“For primary and secondary children the change means that if there is a high school out of county closer to them than their catchment school, they will be provided with free transport to that school but will be charged £720 per child in 2014 and more in following years to continue to travel to their catchment school.”
Young people and children’s wellbeing cabinet member Jeremy Millar said the council currently offered more than was legally required and needs to save £33 million in the next three years, so the policy will be to provide the statutory minimum.
He said: “It should be noted that John Masefield High School also benefits from students from areas outside of Herefordshire choosing to attend.
“The council has offered to work with schools to help them with their transport arrangements to ensure numbers remain unaffected.”