Subsidised school transport slashed in Comet country

MANY school children in Comet country will no longer have access to subsidised school transport, after a council agreed to cut concessionary travel in a bid to save money.

Herts County Council’s Cabinet last week approved proposals to allow free home to school transport based only on statutory entitlement. It will come into effect in September 2012.

It means that free transport will now be limited to children attending their nearest qualifying school, children from families with lower income and those with disabilities.

Those on the borders will be particularly affected, including places such as Lilley, Hexton, Whitwell, Kings Walden and Offley.

Pupils in these areas who start from September 2012 will not be provided free transport to Hertfordshire schools, because schools across the border in Bedfordshire are nearer. A further 12 villages in the county will also be affected.

The policy will also see transport split for junior schools, with residents on one side of Lilley being provided transport to Offley School and on the other end to Hexton School.

The measures have been met with anger by parents in these areas, who have campaigned against proposals since the public consultation held earlier this year.

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“We are all extremely disappointed to learn of Cabinet’s decision,” said Lilley resident Jacinthe Betts, whose youngest child could be affected.

“As tax payers and residents of Hertfordshire, we want and expect our children to attend Hertfordshire schools. Many people moved into the area specifically with education in mind.

“Parents fortunate enough to have a car will most likely decide, where possible, to drive their children to school, adding to the already congested roads and increased CO2 emissions.

“Parents who are not fortunate enough to drive or be able to afford these costs will in effect be forced to send their children to an out of county school, losing the ability through financial restrictions to choose the school best suited for their children.”

Currently, the county council spend �25million a year on providing school transport and are cutting the subsidies as part of wider measures to save �214million over the next four years.

It will now prepare proposals for the next stage of the consultation for the future of the school bus network, which will be discussed at panel meetings tomorrow (Friday) and at Cabinet on Monday.

“We have to significantly reduce the annual cost of home to school transport and these proposals are estimated to achieve savings of between �5 and �6million,” said Richard Thake, executive member for education and skills.

“We have listened to the legitimate concerns of people who responded to the consultation, assessed the impact of our decisions and will continue to consider exceptional circumstances in individual cases.”

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