Council to look again at changes to transport to schools in rural Suffolk

Suffolk's school buses are facing major changes. Picture: JAMES HARGRAVE

Suffolk's school buses are facing major changes. Picture: JAMES HARGRAVE - Credit: Archant

The controversial decision to ask residents for their views on changing the way free transport is offered to Suffolk schoolchildren is to be looked at again by county councillors.

The decision to hold a two-month consultation was agreed at this weeks' county council cabinet meeting, however it is likely to be looked at again by the authority's scrutiny committee towards the end of September.

The reference has been requested by Liberal Democrat councillor Penny Otton whose division includes Thurston Community College, one of those that would be most seriously affected if changes are brought in during 2019. She said the decision should be reconsidered because there was not enough public engagement with the 'pre consultation' period because it took place during the school summer holidays.

The call was seconded by Andrew Stringer, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, and supported by Green councillors Robert Lindsay and Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw and Liberal Democrat Caroline Page.

If the decision is referred back to the cabinet again that could delay the start of the consultation period, due in early October, which could mean it is not finished as planned in December.

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Mrs Brambley-Crawshaw, county councillor for Beccles, said: 'Parents make difficult decisions about which school to send their children to based on all kinds of criteria. For the county council to change the requirements for free transport to school midway through a child's education is very disappointing. 'Not only does it increase the likelihood of more children being driven individually, compounding a Suffolk wide problem with traffic, but for some families the only option may be to move schools and thus disrupt their child's education.'

In a report presented to the cabinet on Tuesday, current school and post-16 travel services were described as 'unsustainable', prompting the council to seek out other options.

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These include no longer offering free travel to children not attending their nearest suitable school, no longer providing subsidising travel for mainstream students over 16 attending schools further than three miles away and ending special arrangements for free schools. Another measure suggested is the possibility of working alongside bus companies to open closed school bus services to general use.

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