Decision to press ahead with Norfolk free bus travel axe

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.

Monday, January 6, 2014
3:35 PM

Moves to take away free bus travel where pupils live within three miles of a school is to continue, after councillors decided to press ahead with the controversial policy.

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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 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 route to school assessed as being safe for them to walk.

The council spends £2m a year on such free transport for 2,240 children, but regularly re-assesses walking routes and takes away free bus passes if changes, such as new pavements, mean the route is deemed safe.

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

But it has sparked anger, particularly 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.

A motion passed by the county council in September called on the controlling Labour and Liberal Democrat cabinet to think again.

The cabinet asked for officers to carry out a review of the policy and, at a meeting today, were presented with the results.

Officers said the policy of reassessments was applied consistently and was fair and cabinet members agreed to continue with it.

Mick Castle, cabinet member for schools, who last August was taken on a route through farmer’s fields by Somerton parents whose children face losing their free bus passes, said: “This report sets out things as they are and I wouldn’t disagree with it. As walkways become fit for purpose, the council is not going to provide free transport.”

But Matthew Smith, UK Independence Party councillor for Gorleston St Andrews, who had put forward a motion on the issue in September, said: “We are very disappointed because we had a vote at council that it was not the way forward and this shows George Nobbs [council leader] and his cabinet are prepared to ignore what people want.”

And Brandon Lewis, Great Yarmouth Conservative MP said the decision was “short-sighted”.

• What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

18 comments

  • 3 miles. 20 min.walk, 510 min.cycle ride. Do children the world of good. I used to cycle 6 miles to school.

    Report this comment

    Johnny Norfolk

    Monday, January 6, 2014

  • Great news, as a first step but now we need to stop ALL free school travel - if people want children, they should pay for all the associated costs involved in having them. If this was the case, perhaps the UK woundn't ne so over crowded!

    Report this comment

    Norfolk John

    Monday, January 6, 2014

  • Dear oh dear, how the Labour group have lost their way since last May....

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • Mr Smith. if you lay down with dogs you are going catch fleas...

    Report this comment

    Andy T

    Wednesday, January 8, 2014

  • Our primary school children from a local village only 23 miles away get collected by a mini bus which has to travel nearly 40 miles in the first place to collect them and take them to school. Then travels the journey back again, only to have to do it all again in the afternoon. That is where the money is being wasted, rather than using a cost effective local company for our school. Council bosses making useless decisions. Abit off topic..but this is much like the decision to waste money using an external team to make decisions on school menus, why not employ Kitchen Managers to do the same job for THE SCHOOL and not profit a 3rd party company??!! The food generally tastes awful too according to my children. Often they have asked why can't I go into school and show them how to cook. Another money saving scheme could be used here..Too easy though isnt it!

    Report this comment

    luanmapo

    Monday, January 6, 2014

  • @BG which wide spread abuse would that be? You can't make a statement like that without backing it up or at least explaining it.

    Report this comment

    Casey

    Monday, January 6, 2014

  • my comment was meant to say 2 or 3 miles not 23 miles

    Report this comment

    luanmapo

    Monday, January 6, 2014

  • BG What exactly is the "wide spread abuse " being carried out by the pensioners when using their bus pass. Please explain in what form it takes and some facts and figures that back up your statement. Thank you.

    Report this comment

    stormy

    Monday, January 6, 2014

  • And as for school Kitchen managers and menus etc, surely you don't want to return to the "bad old days" before it was all contracted out? LoL

    Report this comment

    marty r

    Monday, January 6, 2014

  • The Somerton pupils will still get their bus passes until their walk to school is considered suitable - it was the Belton walkcycle way which I was talking about - that is now considered to be fit for purpose

    Report this comment

    Mick Castle

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

  • BG What exactly is the "wide spread abuse " being carried out by the pensioners when using their bus pass. Please explain what in what form it takes and some facts and figures that back up your statement. Thank you.

    Report this comment

    stormy

    Monday, January 6, 2014

  • Is this the same Slick Mick Castle who has been encouraging parents to apply for school lunches even if their kids don't eat them because the schools get £900 per child for the privilege of not feeding them from central funds (for central funds see your back pocket). See the letter in the EDP today. No-one should listen to one word this ruffian says.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Thursday, January 9, 2014

  • Johnny Norfolk: 3 miles is a 20 minute walk! I think you should contact the British Olympic Association, you are the athlete we are looking for at the next games

    Report this comment

    DaveG

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

  • luanmapo - that firm probably put in the cheapest bid, not the local firm. Yeah, and why not stop poor people having children while we're at it? LoL

    Report this comment

    marty r

    Monday, January 6, 2014

  • If cycling and walking to school cannot be safe, does this policy change not entail a legal pitfall?

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

  • Yet again another non story concerning a fudged decision by County Hall and and Mr Castle in particular.No one disputes in principle the under 3 mile rule as long as it does not produce crazy proposals for children to have to walk through an unlit ploughed field along a route incorrectly designated. If County Hall continue wasting time and money not using sensibly the tools at their disposal then simply the monies taken away from children is not saved. True to form Mr Castle has lamentably failed to give his serving officers any targets or standards as to what he expects to be acceptable outcomes of their work. Such continued abdication of responsibility cannot be allowed to continue.

    Report this comment

    guella

    Monday, January 6, 2014

  • The Somerton pupils will still get their bus passes until their walk to school is considered suitable - it was the Belton walkcycle way which I was talking about - that is now considered to be fit for purpose

    Report this comment

    Mick Castle

    Tuesday, January 7, 2014

  • What a mistake Matthew Smith has made, him and his UKIP colleuges voted George Nobbs in as Leader thinking that this would give them infulence for the benifit of their residents - after this they must feel betrayed by Nobbs and his merry men! What will they do? Nothing as Nobbs has Toby Cooke wrapped around his little finger! Useless!

    Report this comment

    Jack Greenacre

    Monday, January 6, 2014

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

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