Plans to charge an extra £150 for spare seats on school buses have been slammed as ‘wrong’.
Flintshire Council is able to sell empty seats on buses at a concessionary rate for children who do not qualify for free transport.
A pass currently costs £300 per school year, but the majority of committee members today backed proposals to increase the fee to £450 from September 2019.
The move came despite protestations that it was unfair on families, who have already faced a recent hike from the £165 which was previously charged.
Following a review of bus services in the county, it is expected around 350 pupils will pay the new rate.
However, Cilcain councillor Owen Thomas (Con) said he could not support the latest changes.
Speaking at an environment scrutiny committee meeting at County Hall in Mold, 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.
“It’s not the parents’ choice every time, as sometimes the children are turned down for a certain school and they have no choice but to go on that bus.”
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.
In response, Cllr Carolyn Thomas, cabinet member for streetscene and countryside, said a further rise was necessary for the authority to recover the cost of bus services.
She said: “From September next year, the transport policy will be applied strictly and you will only receive transport to your nearest school.
“If we go for option two it’s still a lot of money for people to find but it’s still highly subsidised.
“The money should be spent on education not transport and that’s why this is brought about.
“We didn’t want to leave pupils who use public transport stranded but it is at a cost to the local authority.”
She added that where a child had been refused entry to their nearest school, they would receive free transport to the next available one.
The majority of councillors voted to support the changes, which will also need to be approved by the authority’s cabinet.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).