Level of spending on home to school transport is 'unsustainable' says Bucks County Council

Cllr Mike Appleyard
Cllr Mike Appleyard

Bucks County Council is launching a consultation later this month after announcing that the finances supporting its home to school transport are causing 'serious problems.'

The ten week consultation launches on Wednesday October 31 and will seek feedback on options to alter the service as the council needs to cut costs.

The service, currently costing £15.1 million, takes more than 9,000 Bucks children to and from school.

Of this, £12.7m pays for statutory provision, for children eligible for travel assistance.

The remaining £2.4m pays for transport where the council has applied discretion and agreed to support young people.

The review of the council's transport offer would include:

> Improving the mix of council-provided and commercial transport to provide more flexible options and save money

> Applying statutory requirements to all Bucks schoolchildren, which would include phasing out local free transport arrangements in Ivinghoe and Iver

> Requiring parents of post-16 Special Educational Needs students to contribute towards their travel costs.

There would be no change to arrangements for more than 5,000 pupils who are eligible for free travel with the proposed changes only applying to children and young people who are not eligible for free statutory home-to-school transport.

Mike Appleyard, the county council's cabinet member for education and skills said: "The finances supporting home to school transport are causing us serious problems.

"Costs are rising which require us to look at how we can continue to get children to school safely.

"This might mean, for example, using public transport instead of dedicated school buses.

"In many cases public transport and school transport use the same routes.

"We are looking at a number of options to reduce costs, which limit the need to increase prices.

"I'd like to encourage feedback from our residents on how we implement 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 those who use the service, and will also meet parents of SEN students.

The results of the consultation will be reported to the council's cabinet in March before a final decision is made.

The county council's last consultation on home to school transport was in the summer of 2016 when among the changes introduced as a result was a new policy meaning free transport could only be provided to the nearest secondary school to a child's home address.