‘We cannot make exceptions on one school’ - bid to save free bus travel to Gorleston academy fails

Belton bus pass protest Belton bus pass protest

Tuesday, January 21, 2014
12:01 PM

More than 130 children at a Norfolk school will lose their free bus travel after councillors today said it would not be fair to give then a reprieve.

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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.

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

But, at a meeting of the full council yesterday, the council voted on a Conservative/UKIP motion to note its disappointment at the cabinet’s decision.

And today, three UKIP councillors - Matthew Smith, Colin Aldred and Alan Grey - brought the matter to cabinet scrutiny to appeal for a rethink.

Mr Smith, who represents Gorleston St Andrew, called for a common sense approach.

However. Mick Castle, cabinet member for schools, said policies were in place, criteria had been applied and had to be stuck to.

He said to do anything else would be

“madness”.

He added: “We cannot make exceptions on one school, however much the local members would like us to.”

The cabinet scrutiny committee, made up of councillors from all parties, agreed, after a proposal by UKIP leader Toby Coke, to back the cabinet decision unanimously, less than 24 hours after the full council had voted to express its disappointment in that decision.

It means 131 pupils in Belton and Burgh Castle will lose their entitlement to free bus passes after half-term.

Mr Smith said: “We would have been doing a disservice to our constituents had we not taken this issue as far as we possibly could.”

9 comments

  • I believe the council made the right choice. My belief is the council is only obliged to provide schools not transport to and from schools unless there is a real need. If you live within three miles of a school you don't need my tax money to pay for a bus. 3 miles isn't that far. If you really feel it's not safe drive your kids to school; a three mile drive really isn't a massive inconvenience.

    Report this comment

    margery

    Saturday, January 25, 2014

  • NCC are having to set aside £19m in reserves from the £308m in case a £500m incinerator plan does not go ahead and compensation has to be paid!!!

    Report this comment

    Tia

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

  • If there is a pavement of adequate width which is lit with street lights for all of the route that all of the affected children will take from those villages then fair enough. But if there is no pavement or the pavement is narrow, unlit and the children have to walk beside a road with more than a 40mph speed limit, one might wonder how the safety of 11 year olds in Year 7 would be guaranteed at half four on a December or January afternoon. NCC seems to be saying they know the route is inadequate but since the villages are close to the school parents can be expected to cough up the fares. I would also ask how many councillors walk or cycle three miles to attend council meetings.

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    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • I am glad that the Council's Scrutiny Committee voted unanimously to stick to the Cabinet's decision. It was important that parents in Belton and Burgh Castle got closure after several months of uncertainty. Clearly the Council had to stick to the same rules there as apply in other villages across Norfolk.

    Report this comment

    Mick Castle

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • The best that can be said is that this affects children across Norfolk, so it isn't as though this school has been singled out, and the decision isn't going to be reversed. Just remember - despite UKIP's opportunism - this ultimately came about as a result of Tory cuts. The parents now need to re-focus on how they can get their children to school safely - they could pool their own vehicles to take other children to school besides their own, they could campaign to make the children's route safer, they can ask their local borough councillors to fund hi-viz jerkins to be issued by the school. It doesn't have to end here.

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    Henry the cat

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • Walking to school or cycling should be encouraged for its health benefits and shows some correlation to improved academic performance, if its not gov legislation its the we want to save tax for millionaires and farmers conservatives in Westminster you need to lobby not the local council

    Report this comment

    Jimmy Hupperby

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • Personally I don't think NCC thought that Belton & Burgh Castle parents were going to put up a fight as hard as they did. They thought we were just going to lay back and accept it. The supposed route that they deem safe to walk at 7am has no street lights for approx 1 mile, the supposed footpath is actually a cycle path that under 'guidelines' falls grossly under the recommended width that is required for walking let alone with cyclists joining them with a road with a 60mph speed limit next to it and then having to cross a busy dual carriageway in the morning rush hr. Look at the weather this morning foggy, icy children as young 11 years can not possibly judge how fast a car is going to make that all important split second decision as to whether they can quickly run across the dual carriageway. For those who bleat on about they don't want their taxes wasted on getting children to school, well your not the only ones who pay taxes, parents who are fighting this, most pay taxes. There will be a lot of seats "lost" come the local elections in May. Remember those who run NCC have already lost alot of tax payers money mainly on themselves and not to mention the cocked up decision regarding the Kings Lynn incinerator. Shame on them because of their appalling decisions they are now having to put children's lives at risk.

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    Tia

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • I think NCC have made an appalling decision reagarding this matter. How can they deem a route safe for children to walk when it has no street lights for approx a mile, the supposed footpath isn't actually a footpath it is a cycle path which fall under the guided width for it to be deemed a footpath, is next to a rd that has a speed limit of 60mph and we all know that gets exceeded most of the time.a child cannot judge how fast a car is travelling so when they come to the dual carriageway way which will be at its busiest at 7-7.30am they have to make a split second decision whether they can make it across the otherside of the road! Before all you who say exercise will do them good and in my day...I completely agree, but the point here is it is not SAFE. There is a local election I believe in May and there will be a seat lost or few!!! Remember these who run NCC like wasting tax payers money on themselves and what comes into mind is also the Kings Lynn incinerator debacle!!

    Report this comment

    Tia

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

  • So UKIP are just in it for the headlines then? No need to even pretend to attempt to follow it through; how disgusting!

    Report this comment

    Sapere Aude

    Wednesday, January 22, 2014

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

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