Disapproval over plans to axe free transport for North Yorkshire pupils

County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton.
County Hall, the cenre of North Yorkshire County Council's campus in Northallerton.

Plans to cut free transport for North Yorkshire pupils aged eight-11 who live between two and three miles of their school has been met with disapproval by residents.

As part of plans to cut spending by around £170m, North Yorkshire County Council proposed removing two areas of discretionary provisions from its home to school and college transport policy.

Pupils at a ‘critical stage’ in their education would also have their transport cut under the proposals if they move home and wish to remain at the school currently attended.

However, as part of the public consultation to the cuts, 70 per cent of people disagreed or strongly disagreed to ending free transport for eight-11 year olds who benefit from this discretion.

Residents also expressed concern about their children walking to school instead from this distance with 76 per cent agreeing that more parents will have to drive their child to school.

And 75 per cent of 115 responses agreed that families would face ‘financial hardship’ should the cuts to the council’s discretionary powers go ahead.

A spokesperson for NYCC said that the proposals would not apply to the ‘most financially vulnerable’ or those on unsafe walking routes to school.

“The council is one of the few authorities that still provides discretionary free transport for those who live between two and three miles from that school,” a spokesperson said.

“Where pupils aged eight-11 are entitled to free school meals or their parents are in receipt of maximum Working Tax Credit, the local authority has a statutory responsibility to continue to provide free transport if the nearest suitable school is beyond two miles.

“In addition, in cases where the route between home and school is deemed to be an unsafe walking route for a child, accompanied as necessary, the authority would also continue to provide free transport.”

Under the proposals, approximately 520 children aged between eight and 11 who receive this discretionary free transport would be affected.

Most of these pupils travel by bus but a small number are provided with taxis because there is no school bus available.

NYCC estimated they are currently foregoing £145k of potential income from parents who would purchase a bus pass for their child as well as spending £48k per annum on taxis.

The proposals would only apply to pupils starting primary school from September 2016 and will be considered by the Executive on May 26.