Plans to remove free transport for hundreds of children in Flintshire who don’t attend their nearest school could be introduced sooner than expected.
Flintshire Council has previously identified a number of cases where pupils are getting free travel, despite falling outside national legislation.
Legally, the council only needs to provide free transport for secondary school pupils who live three miles or further from their nearest suitable school and two miles or more for primary schools.
The move to save the authority money was originally expected to be implemented from July 2020 to give parents time to make alternative travel arrangements.
However, senior politicians will now be asked to consider bringing that date forward to July of this year in the light of the difficult financial situation it is facing.
The decision would impact a total of 295 pupils using five different bus services, and could result in 170 of them who live on high risk routes being forced to move to new schools.
In a report, the council’s chief officer for transport said the revised timetable was being suggested as it would cost in the region of £320,000 to continue to provide the services until next year.
Steven Jones said: “A report was presented to the council’s environment overview and scrutiny committee on 12th July 2018 to identify options for managing some of these non-statutory transport arrangements (referred to as transport anomalies) and cabinet subsequently approved the manner for dealing with the anomalies in July 2018.
“A further report was presented to the environment committee on 8th November 2018 and it was agreed that the anomalies should be withdrawn from July 2020.
“However, given the significant financial challenges currently facing the council, consideration must now be given to withdrawing the historical transport anomalies in July 2019 to achieve a saving.
“Withdrawing the anomalies in July 2019 will provide a financial saving to the authority but will have significant impact on those pupils utilising the services as there are currently no alternative public transport options along those routes.
“A risk analysis has been undertaken to identify the impact of removing the non-statutory transport arrangements for each route.”
Changes relating to a total of three services have been flagged as having a significant effect as pupils are not deemed to be within a safe walking distance to the school which they are attending.
It includes the withdrawal of school journeys on the 109 and 209 service from Shotton and Connah’s Quay to the campus shared by Mold Alun School and Ysgol Maes Garmon.
Removing Service 5 from Garden City and Queensferry to Buckley Elfed High School and the Mold Campus, as well as the Z125 from Greenfield, Holywell, Halkyn and Rhosesmor to Mold Campus has also been highlighted as high risk.
Those classed as a lower risk are the S12 to Connah’s Quay High School and S2 from Broughton, Bretton and Saltney to Chester Catholic High School because of the safe walking distance or availability of other bus services.
The estimated savings from bringing the plans forward stand at just under £230,000.
Members of Flintshire’s ruling cabinet will meet to discuss the proposals on Tuesday May 14th.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).