School transport discussed again

THE next round of discussions on controversial plans to axe free buses for children who attend Roman Catholic schools in Suffolk is set to go ahead.Members of the county council's learning for life overview and scrutiny committee have been asked to consider a draft report on June 7 which recommends parents contribute to the cost of their child's bus journey in a bid to make budget savings.

THE next round of discussions on controversial plans to axe free buses for children who attend Roman Catholic schools in Suffolk is set to go ahead.

Members of the county council's learning for life overview and scrutiny committee have been asked to consider a draft report on June 7 which recommends parents contribute to the cost of their child's bus journey in a bid to make budget savings.

Their views will be taken into account before the report is discussed by the council's executive committee a week later.

The council is yet to decide when any charges will be introduced and is waiting for the results of consultations with the Roman Catholic Diocese, headteachers, parents and governors.


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The draft report states: "The proposal envisaged savings in a full year of £195,000 and the council's base budget has been reduced accordingly.

"The county council does not propose to change the fundamental policy of subsiding transport provision to Roman Catholic pupils.

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"The situation is simply that the council's budget position is not able to meet 100% of the costs. The charge would be the same basic charge as other parts of the discretionary policy, which typically represents 50% or less of the average cost of a seat on school transport."

The executive committee will discuss a range of options as to when and how the charges could be implemented, taking into consideration the views expressed during the consultation period.

A draft recommendation proposes the council confirms the introduction of parental and decides how it will be implemented at the meeting on June 15.

Among those alternatives is to apply the charges to new pupils only entering schools in September this year or possibly setting the charges in September lower and then increasing to the full cost after the second or third year.

The council could also consider an option of deferring the charges until September 2005.

The draft report states if the decision is made to introduce charges from September 2004, a letter will be written to Catholic families who are currently being assisted with transport to advise them of the new system.

An invoice would then be sent on a term basis, which will be about £87 per term in 2004-05.

During consultations, parents felt the move could adversely impact the enrolments at Roman Catholic voluntary aided schools.

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