HEREFORDSHIRE Council has been slammed for its “double-speak” over a vote on school transport charges.
The claim comes from It’s Our County (IOC) that says what confidence it had in council procedure has been “shaken” by confusion over last Friday’s vote.
Today (Wed) the ruling Tory group has been challenged “come clean and honour” the spirit of an amendment intended to stop school transport charges from being introduced in September.
Councillors believed they had backed such an amendment at last Friday’s budget vote. The council says the vote, in fact, supported the introduction of charges from September.
IOC group leader Councillor Anthony Powers said IOC’s intention was “absolutely clear” when it sought advice about the drafting of the Schools Transport budget amendment from senior officers within Herefordshire Council.
That intention, he said, is clearly stated in the amendment: “Re-instate the element of the budget for providing free home to school transport based upon nearest in county or catchment school planned for the academic year September 2014”
“In a great show of co-operation, the amendment was championed by the Leader of the Independent group and seconded by a Tory backbencher, whose understanding was that free school transport was re-instated for those receiving it,” said Coun Powers.
“At no stage did the administration or officers make it clear how they would re-interpret this unanimously passed amendment to their budget. Where do opposition members go for advice on how to effect change, when the very advice we have received has not resulted in the clearly stated intention,” he said.
From September this year, hundreds of county parents face charges to cover the cost of their children’s transport to school or having to switch schools.
The idea behind the amendment, put to the council’s budget meeting last Friday, was to buy time while the council’s schools transport & public transport departments integrated their services and started joint commissioning of provision - leading to substantial savings.
IOC says the increased efficiencies could allow for an in-county school transport option from 2015, preveningt many parents taking their children to out of county schools.
“We call upon Conservative administration to come clean and honour the true meaning of this amendment or admit to their double-speak, " said Cllr Liz Harvey, Deputy Leader of IOC
“We shall be expecting better advice from officers in the future – advice that actually delivers what we ask of them”, she said.