Free school transport at risk in mid beds
OPPOSITION is growing against controversial plans to possibly abolish free transport for many schoolchildren by Central Beds Council (CBC) in an attempt to save up to �1m a year. Among the options being considered is to ask children who live close enough
OPPOSITION is growing against controversial plans to possibly abolish free transport for many schoolchildren by Central Beds Council (CBC) in an attempt to save up to �1m a year.
Among the options being considered is to ask children who live close enough to their schools to get on their bikes and ride or walk to school.
CBC has now extended its Home to School Transport Consultation to ensure that as many residents as possible have the opportunity to respond until Friday, February 19.
Cllr Peter Blaine, leader of the opposition, said: "I shall fight against these proposals that will be immensely unpopular.
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"Asking children to cycle or walk to school poses safety issues and then asking parents to drive their children to school disrupts their day and will cause congestion on our roads.
"Parents affected by these proposals will be left very unhappy."
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Cllr Anita Lewis, portfolio holder for children's services at CBC, said: "The priority of Central Bedfordshire Council is to manage the policy behind the services we provide so they serve as many people as possible, while remaining good value for money to all council tax payers.
"This consultation is to ask all local people, regardless of whether they use the free Home to School transport service or not, how they think this service should be run. Yes the options do cover some difficult decisions but we must explore potentially difficult changes if we are to continue to provide good quality services to those that need it.
"We welcome alternatives and if some children do live close enough to walk or ride their bikes to their school, we will help them with this so they can take full advantage of a healthier and safer route to and from school."
Currently there are over 31,000 children aged between five and 15 attending schools in Central Beds and free transport is provided daily for around 6,200 by CBC at a cost to the taxpayer.
Free school transport for children from low income families and children with disabilities, is a statutory requirement and a very large proportion of people would remain unaffected by the proposals, says the council.
Children from asylum seeking families also receive free transport but the cost of this is covered by the Home Office not by local council tax.
CBC said in a statement: "We will be looking at how we can help those who are eligible to learn independent travel skills.
"Road safety issues will be assessed and routes will be looked at to see if they need improvement to allow children to walk or cycle to school, where appropriate.