We will have to consider cuts to Norfolk student transport subsidies, say council chiefs

Protesters at County Hall when cuts were previously put forward. Photo : Steve Adams

Protesters at County Hall when cuts were previously put forward. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

Thousands of students could be in for anxious months ahead, after bosses at Norfolk County Council refused to rule out cuts to subsidies for transport to schools and colleges.

Norfolk county councillor Colleen Walker.

Norfolk county councillor Colleen Walker. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

Norfolk County Council is looking to save £100m over the next four years, on top of the £25m already agreed for 2018/19 and 2019/20.

The next month will see committees discuss how that money will be saved and the spotlight could, once again, fall on the council's spending on post-16 transport.

The county council currently spends £3.5m a year subsidising travel to sixth-form and other courses for some 2,800 students.

That forms part of the £27m which the children's services department - which needs to save £23.5m by 2022 - spends on transport each year.

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Proposed cuts to the subsidy have been made before. The council pulled back from making £2m of cuts in 2015.

At a meeting on Monday, the council's policy and resources committee, will talk about the need to rethink how people access the council's services.

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That is likely to see adult social services and children's services work together to come up with new ways to drive down costs.

The prospect of post-16 transport being in the firing line came up at a recent meeting of the council's children's services committee.

Colleen Walker, Labour councillor for Great Yarmouth's Magdalen ward, said: 'I understand the need to look for savings and some have been removed because they are not achievable, but can you give me an assurance you will protect post-16 transport?'

Matt Dunkley, interim director of children's services, said: 'I don't think we are in the business of giving an absolute assurance.

'In the context of the sums we have to save, we have to examine all options, so we will definitely be looking at it, along with all other options.

'It's a process of identifying the least worst options.'

He said the issues around post-16 transport were 'very complex' and acknowledged courses for young people tended to be in urban areas.

He said: 'We do not want to be in a situation where were are disadvantaging young people who do not live in Norwich because they cannot get to the provision.

'We will look very, very closely at the impact on young people.'

• Do you depend on subsidised transport for sixth-form or college courses? Tell us your story by emailing dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

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