Children as young as nine could have school buses cut, as Central Bedfordshire Council launches public consultation
- Credit: Archant
Children as young as nine could have their school buses cut under policy changes put forward for consultation by Central Bedfordshire Council.
Pupils affected could be offered public transport passes instead of dedicated private buses, a council spokeswoman said last week while announcing a public consultation on the way students travel to schools and colleges across Central Beds.
The Conservative-controlled council has called for parents’ views on proposals that it says would make better use of taxpayers’ money, while reducing congestion, pollution and parking issues near schools.
It has also encouraged walking and cycling to school, and proposed financial incentives that it says would help schools make greater use of their own minibuses.
But independent councillor Adam Zerny, from Potton, has poured scorn on the consultation and called the council’s behaviour “ridiculous”.
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He told the Comet: “It is ridiculous for the council to say it is consulting people when it cannot tell them how the changes will affect the quality of bus services and the price of tickets.
“These proposals are poorly thought-out and badly explained.”
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In an extensive post on his own Facebook page, Mr Zerny accused the council of consulting the public without itself knowing the full facts – writing that officers were unable to give him relevant transport costs when he asked about them.
He added that the council had spoken to only a handful of schools about the proposed major policy change, despite the fact that it would affect all schools within the authority area.
Councillor Ian Dalgarno – who represents Arlesey ward, and has responsibility for community services at the council – said it was vital to review the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of student transport.
He said: “In the last year we have spent over £8.4 million on school and college travel services, a rise of more than £1.1m compared to what we spent in the previous year.
“We have an absolute responsibility and a need to keep the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of our services under review in the interests of all council taxpayers.
“The proposals we are consulting on will continue to ensure that we operate a fair, equitable and transparent policy to support eligible pupils and their families, while meeting our legal duties.”
Any changes agreed following this public consultation would come into effect in September 2018. The local authority currently transports more than 5,000 children and students to school or college each year, which it says is more than required under its statutory obligations.
The consultation is open until August 20. Have your say at centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/consultations, or have a look at a paper copy of the proposals at your nearest library.
What do you think? Send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org.