Charges could be introduced for further education students who receive free travel
Charges of up to £450 a year could be introduced for further education students in Flintshire who currently receive free travel.
It is one of six options being considered by Flintshire Council as it carries out a review of its policy on discretionary school transport.
The arrangements cost the authority a total of £860,000 a year and senior politicians said it was one of few in Wales which provides the service for youngsters in post-16 education.
The suggested charges range from £50 to £150 per term, although the council is deliberating whether the fee should be waived for students who receive free school meals, as well as those travelling to Welsh medium and faith schools.
Other choices include keeping the service the same or cancelling it entirely, forcing learners to make their own arrangements.
Cllr Carolyn Thomas (Lab), cabinet member for Streetscene and countryside, said the move was being considered as the council faces a difficult financial outlook next year. She said:
“Post-16 transport to college and schools and provision of transport under the benefits criterion is a discretionary service.
“While we continue to face significant reductions in revenue, we are being faced with difficult decisions and we must consider different ways in which services are provided.”
The current policy states that free transport will be provided for students attending full time courses, as long as they live three miles or further from their nearest suitable school or college.
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.
Stopping the service would save the authority £10,000 per year and it is currently the only one left in Wales which provides such an entitlement.
Cllr Ian Roberts (Lab), cabinet member for education and youth, said: “The discretionary entitlement to free transport under the benefits criterion has not been reviewed since 1996.
“In the current economic climate, we must consider alternative arrangements.
“At this stage, we are consulting before any decisions are made and the policy is introduced.
“I hope that people engage with the council and consider the options which are being put up for consultation.”
Options for children whose parents are on benefits include keeping the service the same, removing it from September 2020 or phasing it out over a three-year period.
Flintshire’s cabinet members will be asked to consider the options which are set to be included in the consultation when they meet next Tuesday.
By Liam Randall – Local Democracy Reporter (more here).
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