Suffolk home to school transport consultation to be reconsidered
Proposals to consult Suffolk residents on changing the way home to school and post-16 travel is provided will be reconsidered on Tuesday 5 December.
Over the last two years, Suffolk County Council has managed to save £2.6 million from its school and post-16 travel service budget, making it more efficient. Despite this, the budget is still £3 million overspent. Changes to the school and post-16 travel policies now need to be considered so the service is affordable and capable of meeting growing demand in the future.
Suffolk County Council’s current school and post-16 travel policies go above legal requirements, with around 2400 children and young people receiving free/subsided school or post-16 travel that we are not legally required to provide, and around 2400 children receiving free travel to schools further away than legally required. The proposed consultation seeks views on options to change these policies.
On 12 September 2017, Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet approved a public consultation on school and post-16 travel. This was subsequently reviewed by the council’s Scrutiny Committee and referred back to Cabinet for reconsideration.
Suffolk County Council has now carried out additional pre-consultation work with schools, parents, parish councils, bus/coach operators, councillors and young people to look at the challenges in further detail. As part of this, a range of local solutions have been developed that in addition to changing the school and post-16 travel policies, could help reduce the cost of transport and some of the impact of any policy changes. These include, for example increasing sizes of vehicles, extending school opening times, and parents applying for free travel so only the seats that are needed are allocated.
The pre-consultation ran from July to November 2017, and was carried out to help inform the proposed public consultation. During this period, Suffolk County Council heard the views of over 200 people, and facilitated 28 different events, workshops, meetings and discussions.
Suffolk County Council Cabinet Member for Children's Services, Education and Skills, Councillor Gordon Jones, said:
“A considerable amount of work has been undertaken to consider very carefully and thoroughly the feedback and issues that have been raised to date.
“I am confident that we are ready to start a public consultation and I will be urging my colleagues to approve its go ahead. This is a huge challenge that Suffolk is facing, and I want all Suffolk residents to have the opportunity to help shape a solution that is right for Suffolk.”
If the consultation is approved, it will run from 12 December 2017 to 28 February 2018. The findings would be reported back to Cabinet along with a recommendation on the future school and post-16 travel policies. Any decision to change the policies would be made so that they can be implemented from September 2019 onward.
The paper is available at: https://committeeminutes.suffolk.gov.uk/DocSetPage.aspx?MeetingTitle=(05-12-2017),%20The%20Cabinet