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MP calls for divisive Suffolk school transport policy to be reformed

PUBLISHED: 05:30 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 07:46 31 October 2019

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education Mary Evans said she would consider the points raised by James Cartlidge, South Suffolk MP, in his letter to the council on school transport changes, Picture: JAMES CARTLIDGE MP

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for education Mary Evans said she would consider the points raised by James Cartlidge, South Suffolk MP, in his letter to the council on school transport changes, Picture: JAMES CARTLIDGE MP

JAMES CARTLIDGE MP

A Suffolk MP whose constituency is among those affected by controversial school transport changes has called on his party colleagues at the council to make significant changes to the policy.

Conservative MP for South Suffolk James Cartlidge has penned a letter to chief fire officer Mark Hardingham, who is chairing a review panel in how the divisive new policy has been implemented.

The new policy agreed by Suffolk County Council's Conservative cabinet came into effect in September, and only allowed funded school transport to youngsters' nearest school if it was two miles away or further, in a bid to help save costs.

Following a wave of problems with the new policy's implementation, which included passes not arriving on time, split villages and siblings having to go to different schools, Mr Cartlidge has urged the review panel to reconsider the policy.

He wrote: "I share the profound concern of many of my constituents that this policy is, in essence, unfair and unreasonable.

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"I can assure you I entirely understand the financial challenges faced by SCC and have at all times sought to work positively with councillor colleagues to address this, including supporting pushes for more national funding in concert with fellow Suffolk MPs.

"However I believe this policy must be reformed if it is to command broader consent and support the reasonable expectations of my constituents."

Mr Cartlidge said he had struggled to accept that many parents had suffered for "often technical and arbitrary reasons".

In the letter, Mr Cartlidge called for an end to families having to send siblings to different schools, split villages to be addressed, a review of measurement criteria, guarantees for parents purchasing spare seats and consideration of vulnerable people such as those facing redundancy or financial hardship.

Those changes had been requested by parent campaigners, and been put forward in a motion presented to the council's full council meeting earlier this month, but did not gain enough votes in support.

Councillor Mary Evans, cabinet member for children's services, said: "The review will focus on the implementation of the new home school transport policy and the terms of reference are currently being finalised.

"We have received the letter from James Cartlidge MP and will consider the points he raises."

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