Home To School Transport
The Council’s Cabinet will, in the New Year, consider the level of the Council’s Home to School Transport provision.
The Council currently provides the most generous home to school travel provision in Wales and as it seeks to address a total budget gap of over £70M over the next three years, Cabinet will consider the future level of this service.
A report for consideration by Cabinet will recommend a range of options around the discretionary elements of the Council’s current home to school transport provision.
County Borough Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of the Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council said:
“As a result of the drastic cuts to funding we face, we have no alternative other than to consider the discretionary elements of our current provision.
“We currently provide the most generous home to school transport provision in Wales. Transport is currently provided free for any child who lives further than 1 ½ miles from their nearest suitable primary school and two miles from their nearest suitable secondary.
“Even though discretionary, we currently provide free transport to pupils who attend faith schools beyond these distances and also for post-sixteen education.
“The Welsh Government Learner Travel Measure requires local authorities to provide home to school transport from over 2 miles for their nearest suitable primary school and 3 miles for their nearest suitable secondary school.
“We currently spend over £10 Million per annum delivering home to school transport for young people across the county. Based on the guidance within the Learner Travel Measure, over £3M of this expenditure is discretionary.
“Faced with the difficult task of addressing a significant budget gap into the medium term as a result of UK government cuts to public spending, we therefore have no alternative other than to consider this service.
“The report which will be considered by Cabinet in the New Year details a number of options and proposes Cabinet give further consideration to the discretionary elements of the service the Council currently provides.
“We know the distance levels we offer are over generous when compared with other local authorities in Wales.
“When this matter is considered in the New Year, I will personally want to fully explore ways of avoiding removing routes already in use.
“I totally accept there will be no perfect option which will satisfy everyone, other than retaining the status quo, but, based on the funding shortfall, I do not see this as an option for Cabinet when we have the responsibility of addressing the massive budget gap we face, which still extends to over £70M over the next three years.
“Other Councils in Wales have already reduced their home to school transport provision as part of their budget saving measures and this has resulted in the gap between the provision in Rhondda Cynon Taf and other Welsh Local authorities widening further.
“That said, I will want to see a proposal which suits Rhondda Cynon Taf and we may not therefore take the direction other local authorities have taken.
“We provide a significant subsidy for this service and I do not believe it is possible to totally remove it. When we consider this matter in early January, one option could be to reduce this level of subsidy by introducing a charge for the discretionary elements of the service the Council currently provides, instead of removing the routes and buses outside the Learner Travel Measure distances.
“That means, for example, that a child who currently lives 1 ½ miles from their school, who currently benefits from home to school transport, would, under this option, be eligible for subsidised travel.
“Cabinet will need to consider this proposal wisely, as this option will mean that even in these difficult times we are still providing a significant subsidy for this service. This could inevitably lead to harsher cuts in other areas.”
A date has yet to be set for a meeting to take place to discuss this matter but, in the New Year, the Council’s Cabinet will meet to consider the range of potential options available before deciding whether or not to initiate a consultation process in respect of a proposed new Home to School Transport policy.
If Cabinet agree to initiate a consultation, then an eight week consultation process would be undertaken, during which all residents and stakeholders would have the opportunity to have their say.
Full details of the consultation process would be widely publicised and communicated via the Council’s website, social media and the press.
Subsequent to the completion of any consultation process, Cabinet would meet again to decide whether or not, and if so how, they wish to progress with any changes.
Any changes would not be effective until September 2016 at the earliest.
No further information or detail will be made available regarding any possible changes until such time as the matter has been considered by Cabinet.