December 8 2013 Latest news:
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Pressure is mounting on the county’s education cabinet member, after calls to save free school bus passes achieved overwhelming support.
A UKIP motion to maintain funding for the passes was put to full council at County Hall yesterday, and was carried with 50 votes for, 14 against and 10 abstentions.
And it has been welcomed by parents in Belton and Burgh Castle, who are having to pay £100 per child per term for their children to continue getting the bus to Ormiston Venture Academy in Gorleston.
Funding was withdrawn after a ruling from officers that the walk - of just under three miles - is safe after a new cycleway and island in the road were built.
But parents cannot claim victory yet, as the final decision rests with the cabinet.
Father-of-three Lee Staff, who has been leading the campaign to save free passes, said: “We’re really chuffed.
“If they don’t listen and overturn it it’s a failing in democracy.”
The national government policy is that children must pay for bus passes if they live within three miles of the school, unless there is no safe route.
And with Norfolk County Council facing a £182m cuts challenge in the next three years, education cabinet member Mick Castle said he struggled to justify paying out extra money.
Speaking after yesterday’s vote, he said: “It reflected the sentiments of the people there.
“It’s a cabinet decision but obviously we will take on board the feeling there.
“We can’t promise we can unpick the policy we inherited [from the Conservatives].
“With the competing pressures, we will respond in some way.”
Gorleston St Andrews councillor Matthew Smith, who put the UKIP motion, said he was pleased it was passed.
He added it would be “morally wrong” for some to be entitled to free travel while “parents who might not be at all well off but work hard” may have to pay for their children.
Conservative group leader Bill Borrett said the motion’s success was “one part of a two-stage victory we hope to see in the campaign”.
And he called on Mr Castle to “think again”.
The majority of councillors who voted against the motion were Labour councillors.