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Suffolk school transport cuts decision to go to review

PUBLISHED: 16:08 26 June 2018 | UPDATED: 12:58 28 June 2018

Suffolk County Council's scrutiny committee will discuss the matter on July 9 Picture: ARCHANT

Suffolk County Council's scrutiny committee will discuss the matter on July 9 Picture: ARCHANT

The decision to make divisive cuts on home to school transport in Suffolk has been put on hold for further scrutiny, after a call-in of the plan was upheld.

Jack Abbott said the financial modelling was 'misleading' Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILJack Abbott said the financial modelling was 'misleading' Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Suffolk County Council’s cabinet last week unanimously agreed to pursue option two – a phased introduction from September 2019 that will only allow free school transport for youngsters to their nearest school if it is two miles or more away.

Opposition councillors from the Labour and Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent groups united to call-in the decision.

That left the decision having to be assessed by the monitoring officer, who this afternoon confirmed it will go to scrutiny committee.

Labour education spokesman Jack Abbott, said: “We have been saying for months now that the financial modelling simply does not stack up.

Andrew Stringer said the financial modelling wasn't robust enough to justify such a dramatic change Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILAndrew Stringer said the financial modelling wasn't robust enough to justify such a dramatic change Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

“I wonder how much money has been wasted defending the line saying that home to school transport will cost £45million, something people can now see is misleading at best.

“The finances don’t add up and never have done.

“We are delighted for the schools, parents, carers and children who have been fighting against this ridiculous policy change.”

A comprehensive 22-page representation was submitted by opposition parties highlighting a catalogue of concerns with how the decision was made.

Gordon Jones, Suffolk Councy Council cabinet member for children's services, education and skills approved the decision alongside the rest of the cabinet last week Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILGordon Jones, Suffolk Councy Council cabinet member for children's services, education and skills approved the decision alongside the rest of the cabinet last week Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

Among those were the financial modelling used to inform the decision, whether the extent of the Consultation Institute’s involvement was clear, and whether enough consideration had been given to results of the Essex County Council school transport changes, which actually found a rise in costs.

The decision will now go to the county council’s scrutiny committee on Monday, July 9.

Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group leader Andrew Stringer said: “We’re delighted the call-in has been successful.

“Over the past few months, opposition councillors, schools and parents have all been very vocal about the flaws in this policy.

“This decision shows that our numerous concerns are entirely valid.

“The financial modelling simply isn’t good enough to justify such a drastic and damaging policy change.

“Not analysing the experience of Essex County Council was just irresponsible.

“We hope the scrutiny committee will recognise these errors and send the report back.”

Gordon Jones, education cabinet member said: “The decision on the future of school and post-16 travel policies, made by Suffolk County Council’s cabinet on 19 June 2018, has been called-in for consideration by the scrutiny committee in accordance with scrutiny procedure rules.

“The meeting will take place on 9 July.”

Savings of around £5.8m per year were claimed by those backing the decision, as well as avoiding costs of more than £40m over a 10 year period.

But the consultation received more than 70% of respondents strongly objecting to the plan.

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