NOTE: This content is old - Published: Thursday, Aug 1st, 2019.
A petition has been launched in a bid to overturn Flintshire Council’s decision to charge some parents £450 a year to send their children to school.
The local authority currently sells spare seats on school buses for pupils who do not qualify for free transport under its policies at a cost of £100 per term.
From September, the amount for concessionary passes will go up to £150 a term, representing an increase of 50 per cent.
Some parents have complained that they were not made aware of the changes until recently and will be unable to afford the extra amount.
They have also raised fears that youngsters could be left to walk or cycle along dangerous roads after it was revealed the council will stop offering spare seats completely from July 2020.
More than 200 people have now signed a petition calling for the ruling administration to overturn the decision.
They include Joanne Millar who will be required to pay £900 a year to send her two children to the Alun School in Mold from September.
Ms Millar, who sits on Northop Community Council, said: “Many parents I have spoken to were unaware of these charges set to come into force this September and of Flintshire Council’s decision to wash their hands of their responsibilities regarding school transport for the children not attending their local high school.
“This is a large number of children and families that will suffer due to the plans set to go ahead.
“Parents have real concerns that they cannot afford the extra cost and may have to remove their children from school even when they are about to begin critical years taking GCSEs.
“One family I have spoken to suggested their children would have to bike from Flint; this would be on 60 mile an hour roads that are not well lit.
“Children should have the right to be able to access school transport to the school that they have chosen, and for prices that are not out of reach to working-class families.”
Following a review of bus services in the county, it is expected around 350 pupils will pay the new rate.
The move came despite protestations that it was unfair on families, who have already faced a hike from the £165 a year which was previously charged.
But senior politicians said a further rise was necessary for the authority to recover the cost of bus services.
A meeting was recently held in Connah’s Quay for parents to discuss their concerns about the changes.
In response to the issues raised, the council said only pupils attending their closest suitable school are entitled to free transport and parents are responsible for travel arrangements for youngsters who are not eligible.
Cllr Carolyn Thomas, the authority’s deputy leader, also said budget cuts by central government were partly to blame for the increase in charges.
In an e-mail sent to Ms Millar, she said: “The policy is that the council will continue to offer concessionary seats at £150 per term (£450 per year as there are three terms) but only until September 2020.
“It is because, as mentioned earlier, the council has had year upon year of cuts in funding from government and this year because of unfunded budget pressures such as teacher pay awards, inflation and new unfunded government legislation there are more budget pressures totalling approximately £14m.
“The council has already over the past ten years made £90m of efficiencies and has to look at other difficult cost savings.
“You may have had bus transport for many years but the cuts in public service funding from government has meant that each year more difficult decisions are having to be made.
“We are struggling to fund the education budget at the same level and it may be cut next year unless the government provides some additional funding.”
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).