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Opposition parties unite for call-in of Suffolk school transport decision

PUBLISHED: 15:48 21 June 2018

Suffolk County Council's monitoring officer will assess the decision Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council's monitoring officer will assess the decision Picture: ARCHANT

Plans to cut back on free school transport in Suffolk which were given the go-ahead on Tuesday have been formally challenged by opposition parties.

Jack Abbott said the decision had been railroaded through Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILJack Abbott said the decision had been railroaded through Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Councillors from the Labour and Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group have called in the decision citing a host of issues with how the decision was made.

The lengthy 22-page challenge said that the report “cannot evidence” how the claimed savings would be made, issues with the financial modelling of the proposal, a lack of clarity over certain issues such as the stakeholder group and a host of “deliberately misleading statements”.

It has also emerged that the Consultation Institute were only commissioned during the pre-consultation phase, and had no involvement in any of the process thereafter – including an analysis and recommendation from the data – despite suggestions they were involved.

The opposition groups said this had the sole purpose of “misleading the council”.

Andrew Stringer also raised concerns at the decision Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILAndrew Stringer also raised concerns at the decision Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Jack Abbott, Labour’s education spokesman who proposed the call-in, said: “How the cabinet can ignore all the holes in this policy proposal and railroad it through is a complete mystery to me.

“The strength of feeling across all the opposition groups is clear and this issue transcends party politics.

“This ill thought through, poorly formulated policy decision must be reversed to ensure educational attainment in Suffolk is not negatively impacted by this decision.”

A formal call-in must be made within 48 hours of the decision, and requires the council’s monitoring officer to assess whether the decision was fair and justified. If the challenge is upheld it will go to scrutiny committee for discussion.

Gordon Jones, Suffolk Councy Council cabinet member for children's services, education and skills said the monitoring officer would decide within the next few days Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILGordon Jones, Suffolk Councy Council cabinet member for children's services, education and skills said the monitoring officer would decide within the next few days Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Andrew Stringer, leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group said: “It is simply staggering that the Conservative cabinet have agreed these changes on such a weak business case.

“We cannot stand by and watch as more children are likely to be injured or worse as a direct result of this move, we need a rethink.

“The report and financial modelling is inaccurate, incomplete and fundamentally flawed, I cannot see how this decision can be justified.”

Gordon Jones, education cabinet member, said: “Call-ins are part of the county council’s democratic process.

“The council’s monitoring officer will now assess the validity of the call-in against criteria set out in the council’s constitution.

“He will make his decision within the next few days.”

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