Herefordshire Council's cabinet defer school transport policy changes

Ledbury Reporter: Pupils such as these, from Brimfield and Orleton, are some of those who could be affected by changes to school transport policies. Pupils such as these, from Brimfield and Orleton, are some of those who could be affected by changes to school transport policies.

CHANGES to the county's school transport policy will not be implemented until 2015.

Herefordshire Council's cabinet today approved recommendations to delay policy changes which provide school children with free transport to their nearest school only.

Currently, this also applies to catchment schools.

It follows several days of confusion which arose after a February council meeting – where many believed they had backed an amendment to stop school transport charges from being introduced in September.

Cabinet claimed that was not the case however, with charges still set to be introduced – but with a transition fund set up to help.

After a week of pressure and accusation, the council confessed to a “level of confusion” over the imposition of charges and put out a clarification that stood by its interpretation of the vote.

The statement said it was "clear" that the debate and decision making process was about setting the budget for 2014/15 and not council policies.

School transport charges were agreed by cabinet in December 2013, before being called in by the general overview and scrutiny committee in January. The charges were then re-examined and upheld by cabinet in January.

But after discussions between group leaders, a decision to defer the implementation was agreed.

Cabinet member for young people and children's wellbeing, councillor Jeremy Millar, said at today's meeting: "Members will be aware of the discussions that took place when there was some confusion. This decision to delay implementation is, in some large part, to ensure it no longer exists."

The recommendations also included an agreement that the changes will be phased in and will affect only children who are newly entering a school from September 2015.

Post-16 SEN students will also be required to pay the same contribution to transport as all post-16 students.

The news was welcomed by opposition councillors and Sebastian Bowen, leader of Herefordshire Independents thanked the hard work of many people which had resulted in a "fair and common sense resolution" of this "particularly thorny problem".

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