Free travel could be removed for post-16 students as consultation is approved
A review is set to be launched which could see students in Flintshire charged up to £450 a year for travel.
It comes after Flintshire Council’s ruling cabinet decided to launch a consultation on whether to remove free transport for youngsters in post-16 education.
The current policy provides for students attending full time courses, as long as they live three miles or further from their nearest suitable school or college.
A total of six options are being considered moving forward as the authority looks to save £860,000 a year.
They include whether to bring in fees of between £50 to £150 per term for all schools and colleges, to stop the service entirely or keep it as it is.
The council is also looking at the possibility of introducing charges, but waiving them for students who receive free school meals and those attending Welsh medium and faith schools.
Cllr Ian Roberts (Lab), cabinet member for education and youth, said the decision to launch a review was being taken because of the difficult financial outlook for local authorities.
Speaking at a meeting at County Hall in Mold today he said: “Post-16 transport to college and schools and provision of free transport under the benefits criterion is a discretionary service.
“The council continues to face significant reductions in revenue and has to consider different ways in which services are provided.
“The provision of discretionary transport is not considered to be sustainable in the current financial climate and is an area where savings may be possible.
“It’s important to emphasise that cabinet are not deciding today what decision to make on transport strategy, we’re going out to consultation.
“I appreciate that this process may cause anxiety, but would like to assure everyone there is no pre-determination of the outcome of this review.”
Cllr Roberts encouraged all schools, colleges and people affected to take part in the consultation exercise, which will launch early next year.
As part of the review, the council is also debating whether to remove free travel for pupils across all age groups whose families are in receipt of benefits to save £10,000 per year.
During the meeting, cabinet members also approved plans to charge an extra £150 for spare seats on school buses for children who do not qualify for free transport.
A pass currently costs £300 per school year, but councillors unanimously backed proposals to increase the fee to £450 from September 2019.
Cllr Carolyn Thomas (Lab), cabinet member for streetscene and countryside, said: “Although I appreciate the cost is difficult for people feeling the pinch, it’s still less than 50 per cent of the cost of providing concessionary seats.
“The cost of providing travel is very expensive and it equates to £800 per seat.
“I feel it would be unfair to increase the price to full cost recovery in such a short period of time.
“Parents are now making decisions for which school their child will be attending next year, so again I need to reiterate that they will only get free transport to their nearest appropriate school if they live more than three miles away.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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