Home to School Transport Rhondda Cynon Taf
The Council’s Cabinet will next week consider the level of the Council's Home to School Transport provision.
The Council currently provides one of the most generous home to school travel provision in Wales and as the Council seeks to address a total budget gap of over £42M over the next two years, Cabinet will consider the future level of this service. This matter has been brought forward in light of anticipated further cuts to public sector funding over the next five years.
A report for consideration by Cabinet will detail 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 anticipate facing over the next five years we have to consider and review the discretionary elements of our current provision for which the Council provides a significant subsidy.
“The Welsh Government Learner Travel Measure requires local authorities to provide home to school transport for pupils residing over 2 miles from their nearest suitable primary school and 3 miles from their nearest suitable secondary school. There is no statutory requirement for faith, pre-school or post 16 transport.
“We currently provide one of the most generous home to school transport services in Wales. Transport is currently provided free for any child who lives further than 1 ½ miles from their nearest suitable primary school and 2 miles from their nearest suitable secondary school. In the same manner transport is also provided for faith, pre-school and for post 16 learners.
“The report recommends reducing the level of subsidy by introducing a charge towards the discretionary elements of the service the Council currently provides, rather than a proposal which would see the withdrawal of routes and buses that provide discretionary elements of transport.
“Cabinet will need to give careful consideration to the proposal as this option would mean that even in these difficult times we would still be providing a significant subsidy for this service. Any savings not made in this area would consequently need to be found from other areas.
“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 £4M of this expenditure is classified as discretionary. Faced with the difficult task of addressing a significant budget gap into the medium term as a result of continued UK government cuts to public spending, we therefore have to review and consider this service.
“The report does not propose the removal of the discretionary elements of the services, instead it recommends reducing the subsidy to maintain and sustain this valued service.
“While further savings could be achieved by reducing the level of provision we provide to the levels required in the Learner Travel Measure, it is instead proposed to reduce the subsidy by introducing charging arrangements where learners contribute to the cost of their discretionary transport services. Under the proposals there would be no impact on provision which the Council is required to provide under the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure.
“A comprehensive range of options are proposed within the report which, subject to Cabinets approval, would be consulted upon before a final decision is made. Nothing is set in stone in respect of this matter and the feedback from key stakeholders, such as parents and children, would be fundamental in this respect.
“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 we now anticipate facing over the next five years, we need to consider such proposals given the Council's responsibility of addressing the massive budget gap we face which extends to over £42M over the next two years.
“Most 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 the majority of Welsh Local authorities widening further. That said I will want to see a provision of Home to School Transport which suits Rhondda Cynon Taf and we may not therefore follow the direction other local authorities have taken.”