Post 16 school transport charges in Northumberland
The row continues over the scrapping of free school transport for 16-18 year olds in Northumberland as parents receive a letter from the Council explaining that there is a delay in processing passes for those entitled to use school buses and many will have to wait until the end of September before they receive them.
Under the plans, pupils were placed into one of two categories by the council:
1) If there is public bus services which can get the student to school they should use that, not school buses.
2) If there is no public transport they can use school buses, but must pay £600 per year.
Now, parents have received a letter from Northumberland County Council explaining that there is a delay in processing passes for those entitled to use school buses and many will have to wait until the end of September before they receive them. Therefore parents are being advised to make alternative transport arrangements for the first month of the school year.
Northumberland County Council have assured parents that they are doing all they can to ensure that no eligible post 16 student who has applied for transport in good time is left without travel arrangements at the start of term:
For many years the council has operated a concessionary scheme for students of any age who are not entitled to home to school travel. They can request spare seats on school buses at a charge. This scheme is completely separate to the post 16 transport arrangements.
Every year priority is given to providing places on school buses for children who are eligible and therefore spare seats under the concessionary scheme cannot be confirmed until late September. Where possible we will confirm at an earlier date. Parents who purchase a seat under the concessionary scheme do so in the full understanding that the availability of that seat cannot be guaranteed. We always advise these parents to have contingency plans in place until they receive confirmation.
Under the new post 16 scheme for those families who do not qualify for any financial assistance and there is no suitable public transport, students will have to pay £600 for a place on a school bus. The Council will now provide more time for parents to pay the initial instalment of £200 and return their completed direct debit mandate to secure their child’s place on a school bus.
Dozens of parents protested outside County Hall in Morpeth, over plans to charge over-16s for school transport in Northumberland.
From September, most students between 16 and 18 years old will be charged £600 to use school buses, and will fund their own public transport costs.
The demonstration took place before an extraordinary meeting of the council. It debated a motion put forward by the Conservative group leader, Cllr Peter Jackson.
It called for the change to be suspended and for more consultations with parents.
The motion was narrowly defeated by 34 votes to 30.
The Labour controlled authority says the council must reduce a £3.3m bill for post-16 transport.
Council leader, Cllr Grant Davey said:
"In difficult times, we need to be focusing our resources on those who are in greatest need.
We've listened carefully to what the public have had to say, not just today but throughout the consultation period, but the bottom line is we have to balance our budget."
The Labour group said the cost of arranging today's extraordinary meeting came to £80,000; a figure disputed by others.
The Conservative group leader, Cllr Peter Jackson said:
"I think people had to have their say. People have got a democratic right and right across Northumberland, families and young people are struggling with this new six hundred pound, effectively, tax to go to school.
They had to be heard and their concerns had to be heard and addressed and I think it was the right thing to do."
The row over the scrapping of free school transport for 16-18 year olds in Northumberland reaches a climax today as parents and teenagers protest outside an extraordinary meeting of the council called to discuss the policy.
The council has taken away free school buses for post-16 students because of central funding cuts.