Under threat transport schemes saved from cuts

Decision: Coun David Borrow took the decision at a cabinet meeting at County Hall
Decision: Coun David Borrow took the decision at a cabinet meeting at County Hall
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Two transport schemes for schoolchildren which faced the axe under county council cuts are now going to be saved.

Lancashire County Council currently provides support for parents suffering from short term illness who need help getting their children to school, at a cost of around £8,000 a year.

The authority also helps children suffering from a short term illness or injury, such as a broken leg, who can’t get to school by other means, at an annual cost of about £194,000.

Both of these discretionary services were slated to be scrapped, as the council looked to reduce its expenditure by £300m in the next four years.

But David Borrow, deputy leader and portfolio holder for finance at the council, said after the decision went out to consultation, concerns were raised about its impact.

He said: “People were concerned about these items. We’ve amended our budget figures to take into account that the £220,000 we would have saved if these cuts had gone ahead has gone back into the budget.”

However, the cost of another scheme, which provides support for children going to faith schools which are not the school nearest to their homes, is set to increase by £95.

The council plans to raise the charge from £380 to £475 per year for parents who pay the contributory charge and afterwards by inflation plus five per cent each year.

Families on low incomes are exempt from this change.

Of more than one thousand parents who responded to a six-week consultation, 76 per cent said they strongly 
disagreed with the faith schools proposal and a further five per cent said they disagreed with it.

But a council report said: “While the response to the consultation was largely negative, this was to be expected, particularly on those items that have the widest impact such as the increase in travel charges to faith schools and the increase in fares and season tickets.

“The overall response rate was not high and it was heavily influenced by individuals with an interest in faith schools.

“The proposed changes to home to mainstream school transport must be set in context: they only affect children who have no statutory entitlement to travel assistance; and low income families are protected from the impacts.

“In addition the county council will still be heavily subsidising the costs of discretionary transport and, therefore, shielding parents from the full costs.

“Many other local authorities have removed discretionary transport assistance altogether.”