Suffolk County Council wants to hear your views on proposals for free school transport

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Suffolk County Council is now holding a public consultation as it looks to find a long-term solution to providing affordable home to school transport.

The consultation ends on February 28. It invites people to help the council shape the future of school and post-16 travel policies.

The council has already listened to headteachers and included additional options in the consultation document.

The pledge today is to do more of the same as the authority seeks help to find a long-term solution to the funding issues facing home to school transport.

In Suffolk, £21 million of taxpayers’ money is spent per year getting children to and from school.

The county council has already introduced a number of efficiency changes to the service saving around £2.6 million but more savings are needed.

It is therefore consulting on changing its school and post-16 travel policies so it can be affordable, sustainable, and capable of meeting growing demand in the future.

The council’s current school and post-16 travel policies go above legal requirements, which means around 2,400 children and young people receive free/subsidised school or post-16 travel that the council is not legally required to provide and that they wouldn’t get in many other parts of the country. In addition, around 2400 children receive free travel to schools further away than legally required to provide.

The consultation seeks views on changing these policies and includes three alternative options, pre-and post-16.

Option 1: In September 2019, change the school travel policy so that it is in line with the legal requirements. This would mean implementing all the changes in one go, including ceasing free travel to the transport priority area schools where it is not the pupils’ nearest.

Option 2: From September 2019, introduce the changes year by year as a child joins or moves school so that it is in line with legal requirements.

This means that we would introduce all the changes on a phased basis. This option would cost Suffolk County Council an estimated £8.8 million to implement.

Option 3: Make no changes to the school travel policy but make savings from other Suffolk County Council services.

Suffolk County Council cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, Cllr Gordon Jones, said: “Today we’re making a very clear and genuine pledge to listen. A considerable amount of work has been done to consider very carefully and thoroughly the feedback and issues that have been raised to date. But this is only the beginning and I’m calling for unity. I’m saying ‘let’s use this consultation to look at all the issues, discuss them and find sensible solutions together.’ This is a very serious and challenging issue to tackle, which we must in order to be able to afford to run the service in the future.

“I am confident that we are ready to start a public consultation. This is a huge challenge that Suffolk is facing, and I want all Suffolk residents to have the opportunity to help shape a solution that is right for Suffolk.”

Suffolk County Council is also asking for feedback on several other matters, including using Rights of Way as part of the way distance to a school is measured and a range of local solutions, such as Local collection hubs and opt-in to travel, which we have developed with a range of schools.

Further details on these options can be found at www.suffolk.gov.uk/schooltravel

To have your say please fill out the consultation survey, or download a copy from the website and return to:

Suffolk County Council – school and post-16 travel consultation, Endeavour House, 8 Russell Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2BX

The consultation includes workshops where you can consider its themes, the proposals and general questions and answer sessions.

A workshop is being held at the WSH-GFR12 Meeting Room at West Suffolk House, Western Way, Bury St Edmunds, on January 26 with five sessions between 2pm and 7.30pm.

To book your place and for full details, visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/schooltravel or call 0345 603 1842 (Mon-Fri 08.30am to 6pm). Events may book up quickly.