A decision to press ahead with taking away free bus travel where pupils live within three miles of a school has been blasted as “undemocratic” by angry county councillors.

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Norfolk County Council has to provide free school transport to

children attending their catchment, or nearest appropriate, school if

they live over the qualifying distance of two miles for youngsters

aged under eight and three miles

for children who are aged eight and

above.

But the council also has to provide free transport if the child lives within that distance, but there is not a safe route for them to walk.

The council regularly re-assesses walking routes and takes away free bus passes if changes mean the route is deemed safe.

One of the proposals under the Putting People First consultations, to help plug a £189m funding gap over the next three years, is to accelerate a programme of reviewing routes to save money.

In September, the county council voted for the policy to be reviewed and officers produced a report.

The controlling Labour/Liberal Democrat cabinet discussed it last week and decided to continue with the policy of reassessments.

But UKIP councillors Matthew Smith, Alan Grey and Colin Aldred have requested that be called in to next week’s cabinet scrutiny meeting, saying they were “disappointed with the undemocratic decision of the cabinet”.

The policy sparked particular anger in Belton and Burgh Castle, where families of children at Gorleston’s Ormiston Academy who live within three miles of the school have been told they will be losing their free bus travel.

And, last year, Mick Castle, cabinet member for schools, was shown the route across fields pupils in Somerton were being expected to walk to get to Flegg High School.

Mr Castle has said it is “extremely unlikely” the Belton and Burgh Castle decision will be reversed, given the route to school has been deemed fit for purpose, but that pupils in Somerton will keep their passes for the “foreseeable future”.

Do you have a story about a local council? Call Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

11 comments

  • Norfolk County Council "undemocratic". Surely not.

    Report this comment

    democrat

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

  • My message became garbled. Read; "autonomy" and there should be a second "care" after the second "take".

    Report this comment

    peter blyth

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

  • Agree with N but the headline is totally misleading and contrare, setting cademies and free schools up against comprehensives, as if they have a choice. Travel to school is dangerous on bicycles, because our infrastruture and developmet support officers, its all in the name, do not care about providing cycle path or safe cycling to schools, their one track minds are occupied with cars and trade transport, poor mites.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • N, spot on with your comments which addressed the problem. Not sure about your views on transport to academies (and free schools?) though.

    Report this comment

    bedoomed

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • "......given the route to school has been deemed fit for purpose," But Castle is not fit for purpose and should be sacked. Why should these decisions be made by one person, who doesn't live in the area to be assessed ?

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

  • Agree with N but the headline is totally misleading and contrare, setting cademies and free schools up against comprehensives, as if they have a choice. Travel to school is dangerous on bicycles, because our infrastruture and developmet support officers, its all in the name, do not care about providing cycle path or safe cycling to schools, their one track minds are occupied with cars and trade transport, poor mites.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Monday, January 20, 2014

  • "But the council also has to provide free transport if the child lives within that distance, but there is not a safe route for them to walk." Their parents, having moved to unsuitable places in which to allow their chidlren autonomly, must take care, or pay others to take, of their chidren, who probably have been lead to believe that walking is "uncool".

    Report this comment

    peter blyth

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

  • Norfolk John, while I agree that the costs of bringing up a child should be the responsibility of the parents, I don't agree that this should include school transport unless the parents have chosen a school which is not the catchment school. Education is not a choice it is a legal requirement for children to attend school, therefore I believe it is right that transport is provided as part of that requirement. Despite what is touted in the media and by government regarding parental choice, the vast majority of parents send their children to their catchment school. The rural nature of our county means that many high schools have extremely wide catchment areas. Flegg High school is a good example of how the journey to school is difficult without transport. The recent weather will have turned fields into a quagmire and it is simply not practical to have children traipsing across them getting filthy before they've even started the day, not to mention that in the winter the route would be unlit. I am not one for wrapping children up in cotton wool, but at the same time I expect children to be able to turn up ready to learn, not soaking wet and caked in mud and probably requiring a shower and change of clothes. I do think that the situation with transport for academies should be treated differently. They have chosen to remove themselves from local authority control so why should the LA be required to provide them with transport. The academies should be required to utilise some of the additional funding they receive to provide transport.

    Report this comment

    Row71

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

  • this is where the cuts are getting savage . Many goverment previously closed many village schools making it impossible for kids to get educated locally so its up to the local authority to provide transport free of cost . . Voters should have a choice on what their taxes are spent on but their are many other issues above school transport which are going to be voted on at the next election first

    Report this comment

    milecross

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

  • The costs associated with bring up a child should be solely down to the parents - why should I have to pay to transport someone elses brats to school?

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

  • whilst I agree that transport should be provided if over the 2 or 3 miles it is not a legal requirement for children to attend school in the UK, education is compulsory, school is not! :)

    Report this comment

    catalonia13

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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