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Call for rethink over free school bus travel cuts in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 11:06 19 January 2014 | UPDATED: 11:07 19 January 2014

Norfolk County Council cabinet member Mick Castle with council officers and parents in Somerton, who were unhappy at the loss of free bus passes.

Norfolk County Council cabinet member Mick Castle with council officers and parents in Somerton, who were unhappy at the loss of free bus passes.

Archant

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.

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

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