Consultation on school bus cuts

Parents who will lose their children’s free school bus passes next year are being asked to have their say on future transport plans as a council shifts responsibility to schools, communities and private operators.

Herts County Council wants parents of children affected by its decision to cut free school busses to a legal minimum from September 2012 to take part in a survey to determine the future of school transport in the county.

The authority decided to slash its provision of discretionary buss passes last year as part of far-reaching budget cuts. The move is expected to save between �5m and �6m a year.

The consultation is aimed at identifying demand for routes, whether parents want schemes managed by schools and communities, or if they are willing to buy spare seats on remaining council-run services.

Across the county, 155 routes are at risk, capacity on 47 will be reduced and 13 will be put out to tender, 174 will remain unchanged.

Martin Brown, headteacher at Hitchin Boys School said the three senior schools in the town are meeting today (Thursday) to discuss the impact of the changes on parents and pupils.

He said: “It’s going to be difficult for a lot of our parents. A lot of the boys live in the villages and we are aware of that and parents have been talking about that and expressing their concerns.

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“It’s obviously not a good thing for parents and their boys.”

Frances Manning, headteacher at Hitchin Girls said it was difficult to say how the changes would affect her pupils. But she added: “If there was something organised locally then we would be interested in getting involved with that. If parents write to us and tell us that they are having problems then we will look at that.”

Private bus companies have expressed interest in taking over routes currently run by the council if there is enough demand, and could run any new routes proposed. New community or school run schemes would be supported by the council during a three year transition phase.

Frances Button, executive member for education at county hall, said the authority is keen to consider all available options in determining its future school transport strategy.

“We remain committed to promoting sustainable means of transport and we are working closely with partners and commercial bus operators to ensure that pupils who want to travel by bus are still able to do so. We want to get to a point where the charges and routes are determined by the school or local community working directly with the bus operators. If there is a demand for this service, we will support the transition phase and help ensure best value for money is achieved.

“I encourage as many people as possible to respond to the consultation so that we are able to make decisions based on the needs and opinions of our parents and carers.”

The consultation runs until August 15. To have your say go to

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