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Bradford Council free school transport cut to be probed
Updated 4:39pm Tuesday 29th April 2014 in News
A controversial decision to make cuts to free school transport will be examined by a scrutiny committee next week.
The cost-cutting measures will see Bradford Council ending the discretionary travel help it gives to certain pupils, such as those attending faith schools, under fives with special educational needs and children attending pupil referral units.
The Council’s Labour executive approved the plan earlier this month, despite opposition from faith schools, the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, and even activists from within its own party.
Now the Council’s Conservative group has ‘called in’ this decision for examination, hoping to force the authority to make a U-turn.
It will be considered by members of the children’s services overview and scrutiny committee, who could refer the decision back to the full Council if they are unhappy with it.
The education spokesman for the Conservatives, Councillor Roger L’Amie, called the Labour executive’s decision “perverse”.
He said his group had felt compelled to give Labour another chance to change their minds and make “what we consider to be the correct decision.”
He said: “It is to me perverse that a council, which has a statutory obligation to provide for free transport for children over five years old with special educational needs, is considering the removal of such transport to younger children, simply because there is no law to force them to.
“This smacks of looking after vulnerable people when forced to by Government, but otherwise leaving them to it.”
But Councillor Ralph Berry, executive member for children’s services, stood by the decision, saying the district had been spending far more on discretionary transport than other similar authorities.
He said: “We are trying to go about this in a way that protects the most vulnerable.”
Under the changes, the Council will continue to offer free school transport to those living more than the statutory walking distance from their nearest school, which is two miles for under-eights and three miles for those aged eight and over.
Any child currently getting free school transport will not be affected by the changes, which will take effect from September 2015.
The matter will be considered by the children’s services overview and scrutiny committee at its next meeting, on Tuesday at 5.30pm at City Hall.
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