More cuts and higher costs on the way? Council consults on school transport changes

Falmouth Packet: More cuts and higher costs on the way? Council consults on school transport changes More cuts and higher costs on the way? Council consults on school transport changes

The Council is consulting on proposed changes to how home to school transport is provided, and want to hear the views of the public.

If the proposed changes are approved they will come into effect from September 2014.

The consultation on home to school transport, which closes on Friday, February 28, involves:

• eligibility for transport free of charge

• transport for which the parent/carer makes a financial contribution

• provision for children with special educational needs and other individual needs, including medical and health needs.

The Council would like to hear the views of anyone with an interest in the Home to School Transport Policy, especially parents and carers, pupils, schools and colleges, partner agencies, the voluntary sector and town and parish councils.

A consultation document that summarises the proposed changes is available along with the full proposed Home to School Transport Policy 2014/15.

The proposals include removing the current discretionary eligibility that provides transport free of charge to all children aged eight and above in primary education attending their nearest school (or designated school if it is not the nearest) where that school is between two and three miles from the home address (with the exception of those eligible under the statutory low income entitlement).

This would impact on primary school children aged eight and above who live between two and three miles from their nearest or designated primary school.

There is also a proposal to remove the entitlement to transport for children attending their nearest school on the grounds of religion or belief.

There is also a plan to hike fares for concessionary users by 20 per cent from 2014/15 to £130 per term (£390 per academic year) for those not attending their nearest qualifying school or designated school, and to £80 per term (£240 per academic year) for those attending their nearest qualifying school or designated school (but not eligible for transport free of charge). Children in this category entitled to Free School Meals or whose parents/carers are in receipt of the maximum level of Working Tax Credits would receive a 50 per cent discount.

There is also a proposal to "enhance the transport provision for children with special and educational needs and other individual needs (including health needs) to ensure that the appropriate transport provision is determined through a comprehensive needs assessment, and to provide Passenger Assistants to meet more complex individual needs such as medical or health requirements where there is supporting professional evidence that such support is necessary to ensure a child’s safe journey to and from school.

Both the documents are available on the Cornwall Council website www.cornwall.gov.uk/schooltransport or on request by calling 0300 1234 101.

Andrew Wallis, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, says: “The Council currently spends approximately £12 million a year on home to school transport, with around 12,000 children and young people being transported each school day. While the majority of transport is provided under our statutory duty, the current policy also includes several discretionary elements which, in light of extreme pressure on our budget, we need to reconsider.

“We have a responsibility to ensure our policy continues to provide fair and appropriate transport arrangements for children and young people alongside value for money. Balancing those two things is not always easy and we want to hear from as many people as possible to help inform our debate and final decision.”

The consultation will run from Monday, January 13 to Friday 28 February 2014.

Anyone interested in commentong on the proposed changes can do so in a number of ways, including:

• Complete the feedback form contained in the consultation document and either post or email it to us using the contact details below.

• Email pupiltransport@cornwall.gov.uk.

• Write to School Transport Commissioning Team, East 0, New County Hall, Truro, TR1 3AY.

The results of the consultation will be considered by Cornwall Council in April 2014 and come into effect in September 2014.

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