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Amendments to the Council's Home to School Transport Policy Agreed

Following an 8 week public consultation, Cabinet today agreed amendments to the Council’s Home to School Transport arrangements. In response to public feedback a number of significant changes were agreed to the original proposal consulted upon. One of the significant changes was to adopt the same approach as to the provision of Home to School Transport for English, Welsh medium education and faith schools. Cabinet agreed to continue supporting a £2.8M subsidy for Home to School Transport. Charges originally proposed were reduced at the meeting and a hardship fund will be introduced.

County Borough Councillor Keiron Montague, Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member responsible for Home to School Transport said:

“Despite the need to make substantial savings to meet the significant reductions in funding we face the Cabinet today agreed to continue providing a subsidy for Home to School Transport in the County Borough of over £2.8M.

“In response to the feedback we received through one of the most extensive consultation exercises which the Council has conducted, the Cabinet made a number of significant changes to the original proposals which Cabinet agreed to consult upon.

“The biggest change in response to the representations made is in respect of the impact any changes will have upon children attending a faith school. Cabinet today agreed to adopt the same approach as to the provision of Home to School Transport for English, Welsh medium education and faith schools. This now means that charges will only apply in respect of primary pupils who live within 1.5 and 2 miles of their nearest suitable primary school and for secondary pupils who live within 2 and 3 miles of their nearest suitable secondary school for pupils who choose to attend an English Medium or Welsh Medium or faith school.

“Other Councils in Wales when faced with the need to make similar difficult decisions regarding their own home to school transport policies have removed discretionary provision entirely to make the necessary savings. Our approach differs by proposing to maintain the provision but introduce a charge for children who live in the discretionary distance as set out with the Wales Learner Travel Measure; Primary up to 2miles and for Secondary up to 3 miles and for Post-16 pupils. This means that if a parent wishes to continue utilising Home to School Transport outside the statutory distances, they will still be able to do so albeit now at a reasonable charge. Parents of a child who receives Free School Meals will pay a reduced charge. Anyone living beyond these distances will continue to receive free Home to School Transport and this includes all SEN pupils.

“Cabinet also responded to feedback and concerns in respect of these new charges by making reductions to the original proposal and also decided to create a hardship fund to support those families who are not in receipt of Free School Meals.

“As with many other difficult decisions, this is an area we have reluctantly considered as a result of the cuts to funding we and all Councils in Wales face as a result of the public service austerity measures imposed by the UK government.

“We have tried to take a pragmatic approach to protect the viability of this service in these difficult times; a service which will even after these changes continue to receive a significant subsidy.

“The changes we have made in response to the public’s feedback on our original proposal demonstrate that we are a listening Council and that even where difficult choices are unavoidable we attempt to respond to the views of residents where financially feasible. The Council will however need to seek alternatives ways to find these savings following the amendments agreed by Cabinet today.”

Full details of the decisions taken by Cabinet can be found in the Decision Notice.