A consultation into cuts to free school transport has been launched– after the county council spent more than £400,000 on pupil taxis in September alone.
An overhaul of Bucks County Council’s (BCC) home-to-school transport service may mean parents of young people aged 16 to 18 with special needs may have to pay for their child’s travel.
Today a public consultation into the changes went live and the council urged all families affected by the service to take part.
Cabinet member for education, Mike Appleyard, said the council’s transport budget has been put under “immense strain” – as figures show the authority spent £426,144 on private taxis ferrying children to and from school in September.
The pressures have seen the council bust its school transport budget by £1.3 million – prompting a redesign of the service in a bid to encourage more pupils to travel to school independently.
Cllr Appleyard said: “We have a statutory duty to make sure children who need our support to get to school and other educational centres can do so safely.
“Many parts of the county are in a rural setting and this is the unfortunate reality of the current cost of this service – which does indeed place a big strain on our budgets.
“The level of spending on the whole home to school transport service is unsustainable so we are reviewing the whole service and a ten week consultation.
“We currently take 10,000 Buckinghamshire schoolchildren to and from school and our aim, as ever, will be to continue to support those who need our help the most.”
Other potential changes include scrapping free transport arrangements for pupils travelling from Iver to the Chalfonts Community College and Ivinghoe to Cottesloe School, in Wing, as well as using more public transport services.
BCC currently spends £15.1 million a year on getting 9,900 of pupils to school – £12.7 million of which goes towards statutory requirements set by government.
Cllr Appleyard added: “We’re exceeding our budget by £1.3 million and we need to make much better use of transport resources across the county to get the best value for money.
“We also want to be consistent in applying our statutory duties, while considering the effect on all those who use the service.
“It’s important that we get feedback on the proposed options so that our future offer meets the needs of families, communities and schools.
“Be assured we will make changes considerately so that we limit the need to increase prices.”
As part of the consultation Cllr Appleyard will hold 11 face-to-face meetings with families who use the service and will also meet with parents of children with special educational needs.
The talks will run for 10 weeks and the results will be reported to BCC’s cabinet in March before a final decision is made.