Herefordshire Council is aware that some residents are concerned that there is a level of confusion surrounding its school transport policy situation for September 2014.
The council decision:
A full council meeting was held on Friday 7 February to debate the council budget. Whilst the council’s formal meeting procedures may understandably be unfamiliar to many residents, all councillors are familiar with these procedures. It was clear that the debate and decision making process was about setting the budget for 2014/15 and not about council policies.
A budget amendment was proposed relating to the school transport policy and during the course of the debate, full council discussed the importance of providing families and schools with some breathing space to adjust to the new policy. Herefordshire Council is aware that through careful financial management, additional funding can be made available during the transition period. Deputy leader Councillor Patricia Morgan made it clear that this would be for transition purposes only, after which councillors unanimously voted to transfer the money to establish a one off transition fund.
The school transport policy:
The policy was originally agreed by cabinet in December 2013, before being called in by the general overview and scrutiny committee in January. It was then re-examined and upheld by cabinet last month.
The new school transport policy remains unchanged and will come into effect in September 2014, when the council will provide free transport to the nearest suitable school only, over certain distance criteria, with a charge being made for young people over the age of 16 with special educational needs using council provided transport.
The transition fund:
The £112,000 transition fund has been made available to help schools and families adapt to the policy changes. For example, it could be used to contribute towards costs for families or for helping schools to set up specific transport arrangements.
A number of schools are already closely working with council officers to identify different transport options and are advising on how the transition funding could be used. The funding criteria will be determined by cabinet on Thursday 13 March, earlier if possible, and will be published on the council’s website.
Herefordshire Council is well aware that there needs to be clarity and certainty about the arrangements being put into place by the council and local schools, to reduce the likelihood of any parents or guardians feeling they have to change their children’s existing school because transport is too much of a barrier for them.
Alistair Neill Jo Davidson
Chief executive Director for children’s wellbeing