Conservatives ignore public and forge ahead with school transport cuts

The Conservative administration at Suffolk County Council today voted to push through cuts to school transport, despite overwhelming public opposition.

The change in Suffolk’s Home to School Transport policy will be phased in from September 2019 and will only allow pupils free transport to their nearest school rather than their catchment school. Rural families and schools will be most affected, and have been vocal in their opposition to the policy since it was announced in September 2017.

Cllr Penny Otton, Spokesperson for Education from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, commented:

“Despite an overwhelming rejection of Option 2 by the public, the Conservative administration ploughing ahead regardless. I am outraged that they don’t seem to value the education of rural children, and are simply refusing to listen to the valid concerns of parents and schools.

I fail to understand why they have not trialled the local solution put forward by Thurston Community College and other schools before making this drastic change.

There is no doubt that rural communities will be harmed by this new policy. However, we sincerely doubt the savings presented in the report. Nothing good can come of this change.”

Cllr Andrew Stringer, Leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, commented:

“The Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group will be calling in this decision to Scrutiny, to show the administration the overwhelming number of issues we have identified. This is a cross-party initiative, with all opposition councillors deeply concerned about the misleading and inaccurate information that is being used to justify this cut.

We are dismayed that the Cabinet have decided to implement a change in school transport policy that will harm so many rural families.

The report and financial modelling is inaccurate, incomplete and fundamentally flawed, so we can’t see how this decision can be justified. It seems the administration have been completely blinded by an ideology of cutting services wherever possible, regardless of whether it will truly create savings.”

This will be the second time the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group have called in a Cabinet decision on these school transport cuts, having successfully done so in September 2017.

The first call-in resulted in a wider public awareness of the issue and forced the council to improve their consultation. If this second call-in is also successful, the decision will be suspended and will go to the council’s Scrutiny Committee on 9 July.

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