Partly Cloudy

Partly Cloudy

max temp: 21°C

min temp: 10°C

Search

Major shake-up of free school bus service will hit parents and schools, Labour fears

PUBLISHED: 20:13 27 November 2017 | UPDATED: 20:13 27 November 2017

Suffolk's school buses are facing major changes. Picture: JAMES HARGRAVE

Suffolk's school buses are facing major changes. Picture: JAMES HARGRAVE

Archant

Parents and schools may have to fork out if major proposals to overhaul the free school transport system in Suffolk are approved, it is feared.

Suffolk County Council (SCC) is aiming to cut £3m from the £21m home-to-school transport budget by scrapping bus services for hundreds of children, mainly in rural areas, who attend schools which are not the closest to their home. Legally, the council only has to provide transport to the nearest school, not the school chosen by parents.

But transport is being provided for some out-of-catchment schools.

The stalled consultation is set to restart next month, SCC today announced. Two new options were unveiled along with the previous ‘wholesale change’ in which services only required by law would be provided.

The new ‘scenarios’ are ‘do nothing’, meaning savings would have to be found elsewhere, and an ‘incremental basis’, in which children who currently receive free transport would keep it but new starters on the same journey would not.

It would cost SCC £8.8m over the four years from September 2019, when the proposals would be implemented.

Jack Abbott, Labour’s education spokesman, said: “The bottom line is, this is a cut which is going to have to be met somewhere, and parents or schools are going to have to fork out. That’s a real concern. Schools are already under budget constraints. Are they going to have to look at things like breakfast clubs? Are parents going to have to change working hours to make this affordable?

“We need new ideas to meet this growing demand. We need a solution that works.”

The proposals include 12 ‘local solutions’ to tailor travel needs, such as staggering school opening times so one bus could serve two, and using larger vehicles, such as one minibus instead of four taxis.

Currently, around 2,400 students receive free or subsidised travel to schools or post-16 providers which SCC is not legally required to provide. Around 2,400 children get free travel to schools further away than legally required.

If the consultation is approved, it will run from December 12 to February 28. Gordon Jones, SCC’s education cabinet member, said the “do nothing’’ option would not be practical. “We need a system for the 2019 education landscape, not 1944. Catchment areas will be a thing of the past. Academies will be their own admission authorities.”

A historic sundial at Christchurch Park in Ipswich which was restored to its former glory last year has been vandalised.

Train services running through Stowmarket station are returning to normal following an earlier broken down freight train but delays can still be expected.

Solicitors claim they are being inundated with queries from people who gave their houses over to an Ipswich-based company, which has since collapsed.

A unique collaboration between a non-profit business group and West Suffolk College is aiming to shape up entrepreneurial mindsets for the world of work.

A large-scale investigation has been launched into an Ipswich-based financial company

Police are treating the stabbing of an 18-year-old man in Felixstowe yesterday as a targeted attack.

You can save £16 on a walk-on fare to from Ipswich to London if you know your way around the complex ticket system.

A man has been arrested in connection with a knifepoint robbery at an Ipswich betting shop at the weekend.

Ipswich council is stepping up the battle against empty homes in the town in a bid to bring more back into use and ease the housing crisis.

Witnesses are being sought by police after a hit-and-run incident in Ipswich last week.

Most read

Show Job Lists

Topic pages

Newsletter Sign Up

Ipswich Star daily newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

MyDate24 MyPhotos24