To consider a report on the Review of Home to School Transport.
Lorraine Butcher, Director of Children’s Services, attended to provide a presentation which outlined the main issues in the report on the review of Home to School Transport.
She explained why the proposed changes to transport had been put forward. Firstly attention was drawn to the tight fiscal situation that, in line with the national context, Cheshire East faced. It was made clear therefore that if the requisite savings were not found in discretionary services such as subsidised travel, they would have to be found in other services, potentially impacting vulnerable children and young people.
Lorraine Butcher continued to outline the consultation process, highlighting the significant and wide-ranging response that it had produced. Following the consultation process, the service had drafted a recommended proposal for each affected group. She explained that based directly on the feedback from the consultation, the impact of the original proposals stated in the consultation papers had been considerably reduced. For instance, following the consultation exercise, the amended proposals suggested no changes for transport arrangements for children and young people with specialised needs. Additionally, it was stated that the ‘phasing in’ of the proposed changes would help maintain continuity of educational setting. It was also noted that the amended proposals would mean that it would take longer to achieve the necessary savings and that this discrepancy would have to found elsewhere in the budget.
Following the presentation, the Chairman invited visiting Councillors to speak on the item under consideration.
Councillor Sam Corcoran made the following points:
· Had the Council considered the impact on jobs as a result of the proposed changes as parents had to drive their children to school?
· St. Thomas More Catholic High School had not received the full 28 days consultation period.
· Did the figures take into consideration the loss of income for Cheshire East as children stopped using the service during the transition period?
In providing a summary, Councillor Corcoran stated that whilst he welcomed the concession to ‘phase in’ the proposed changes he was still concerned over the potential of siblings being on split educational sites. He also asserted that Cheshire East needed to address the fundamental issue as to whether the Council intended to continue to support faith schools. He suggested that the Committee could consider recommending to Cabinet an inflation linked charge increase until a number of potential discrepancies were investigated.
Councillor Shirley Jones stated that faith schools were different in their offer to other schools and therefore it was important that parents had the choice available to them. Additionally, she stated that the proposed changes would have a large impact on young people in Cheshire East who wished to follow a vocational path in their education post 16 but would not be able to due to their local colleges not offering the relevant courses. Councillor Jones expressed her regarding withdrawing the subsidy for school transport and that other alternatives or compromises should be sought.
Councillor Frank Keegan drew attention to a number of faith schools that would be seriously ... view the full minutes text for item 64