Calls for full debate over Suffolk school transport proposals rejected
- Credit: Archant
A motion for a full council debate over controversial plans to shake up free school transport has been voted down – despite youngsters as young as 11 making representations in person.
Suffolk County Council’s meeting on Thursday featured a motion proposed by Labour’s opposition education spokesman Jack Abbott calling for an extraordinary county council meeting where possible outcomes from the planned transport changes could be debated in full.
He called for a non-binding vote to be held which could help inform the cabinet before it made a decision.
The school council from Thurston Community College in west Suffolk – one of the schools which has been most vocal in its objection to the plans – each put questions to education and children’s services cabinet member Gordon Jones during the public question and answer session, urging him to consider the impacts it would have.
Despite the representation by the children, a vote on the motion resulted in it being rejected with 43 votes against to 20 in favour.
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Mr Abbott said: “The students spoke eloquently, expertly and boldly.
“In terms of the motion I am hugely frustrated with the outcome – it was a cross-party, non-partisan initiative, and I am really disappointed that councillors who have previously spoken out weren’t prepared to stand up for their residents.”
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The proposals have been tabled as a result of the cost of running transport, which Mr Jones said was using reserves of £3million a year.
The plans could see some rural services cut, which has raised concerns that some schools may experience falling pupil numbers.
Mr Jones however said that no decision had been made, and that the 12 week consultation launched in December had been made to gather evidence and feedback.
He added: “We have received a lot of feedback organised through the consultation process.
“We will consider all this feedback prior to making the decision in the June cabinet meeting.”
Pupils challenged Mr Jones to visit the school during a day when parents were driving their children to the school – an estimated 300 additional cars – which Mr Jones accepted.
Helen Wilson, principal at the school said: “I couldn’t be more proud of the way our students represented Thurston Community College to the county councillors.
“They were very excited by the opportunity to make their voices heard.
“They showed great courage and spoke with confidence and decorum to a formidable audience.
“Their determination to participate in the democratic process is a model for us all.”