MPs tell Norfolk County Council leader bus pass subsidy saving is not the way to improve schools
- Credit: Archant © 2008
Norfolk's MPs have intervened over County Hall proposals to cut subsidies for school transport telling Norfolk County Council's leader to look at other ways of saving cash.
In a letter to Labour's George Nobbs, the nine Conservative and Lib Dem parliamentarians claimed plans to protect spending on schools and safeguarding children should not be at the expense of the bus pass subsidy, claiming there were other ways to improve schools, including turning rural institutions into academies.
But Mick Castle, cabinet member for education and schools, claimed the reductions in the subsidies were being 'forced on the council' by the 30pc reduction in government funding.
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Adding that the council would be listening to the responses of the 12-week consultation and 'waiting of course to hear if the coalition government provide any comfort in terms of additional resources to help support discretionary school and college transport.'
When the 'rainbow alliance' administration came into being after May's election, it said it would make its troubled Children's Services department a priority, and in August it announced a £16.5m package which included 40 new social workers and more support to help schools improve. The council says this money is not touched by the cuts.
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But in the letter to Mr Nobbs the nine Norfolk MPs hit out at the proposals they say would see the current subsidised passes for 16 to 19-year-olds increase from £468 per year to in the region of £800 / £850, with low income families seeing a rise from £351 to £600 / £638.
It said: 'We fully support the need to ensure safeguarding is adequately funded, but question the need for the council to be the singular driving force for school improvements when other ways are available.'
It outlined the work of non-local authority initiatives, such as the Inspiration Trust and said there was money available from the Department for Education to encourage rural schools to convert to academy status.
The MPs also said the council needed to focus on making back office efficiency savings and should work more with voluntary organisations and other local businesses to deliver services and save money.
South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: 'Norfolk County Council has said that savings need to be made in order to spend money on safeguarding and school improvements. I fully support the need to ensure safeguarding is adequately funded however I do not believe reducing the subsidy for school transport is the way to achieve savings.'
She said a 'more school led approach' to improvements had been shown to work.
This is not the first time the Norfolk MPs have intervened in County Hall matters.
In the summer they issued a statement calling for an interim board to be brought in to take over the running of children's services - which amounted to a vote of no confidence in its director of children's services Lisa Christensen. Days later she resigned.