Senior politicians in Flintshire are being asked to approve charging an extra £150 for spare seats on school buses.
It would see the cost of concessionary passes for children who do not qualify for free transport increase from £300 per school year to £450 from September 2019.
It comes despite some backbench councillors branding the move as ‘wrong’ as families have already faced a recent hike from the £165 which was previously charged.
However, Cllr Carolyn Thomas (Lab), Flintshire Council’s cabinet member for streetscene and countryside, said the authority would still only recover less than half of the cost of providing concessionary seats.
She said: “Although this creates financial pressures for the council at a time of austerity and when difficult decisions are being made on wider budget issues, the council considers that it would be unfair to raise the charges to a full cost recovery for the service over such a short period of time.
“This option provides a balance between full cost recovery and the affordability of the scheme for parents, particularly those with a number of children travelling to school on these services.
“Transport will remain free to the nearest school, including Welsh medium or faith, if living over three miles away or on a hazardous route.
“It is important for parents to be aware of this when currently making choices of which high school to send their child to.”
The majority of councillors supported the changes at a scrutiny committee meeting last month, although some also said they felt it was unfair.
Cilcain councillor Owen Thomas (Con) said he could not support the proposals.
He said: “I’m not happy about this charge when we see so many buses running every hour empty and being subsidised.
“I think that’s wrong and I think that subsidy should go towards children for safe passage to school.”
Meanwhile, Cllr Joe Johnson (Lab) said pupils in Wrexham and Denbighshire appeared to have a ‘better deal’ with a fee of £150 per year for concessionary travel.
If approved, a consultation will be launched with schools before the new charge is introduced next year.
The fee will then be reviewed on an annual basis.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).