Plans to cut transport condemned

Sarah Osborne
Sarah Osborne

Proposals by East Sussex County Council to cut back on funding for transport to school are “appalling, unfair and unnecessary”, says a local councillor.

Sarah Osborne claimed it will lead to some teenagers being denied further and higher education.

Cllr Osborne, the Liberal Democrat campaigner on school transport, is urging people to respond forcefully to the county council’s current consultation on cuts to home-to-school transport.

She has turned her fire on Nick Bennett, the county council’s lead member for learning and school effectiveness.

As reported in last week’s Express, Cllr Bennett is consulting on proposals to end transport for children in areas served by more than one school (if approved, the council will only provide transport to the nearest school), and to end free transport for students with special educational needs, or disabled, attending further education. In addition, the proposals include a £370 charge per child per year for families whose annual income is above £16,190.

“These cuts are appalling, unfair and unnecessary,” Cllr Osborne said. “The impacts on children and families are likely to be very significant. I know of families that have two disabled children, earn just over the threshold for free travel and will now face a bill of £740 per year just so they can continue going to school. I fear it won’t be possible for them to find the money and their children’s education will be stopped in its tracks.

“In his Express article, Nick Bennett failed to mention that he is also planning to reduce the grant for post-16 transport for mainstream further education students from low-income families by up to £24 per year per child. This grant is already only a contribution to the costs so could push some families to the point where they just can’t afford to send their 16-year-olds to school.

“This undermines the whole idea of furthering your prospects through post-16 education. The message coming from the government is to encourage youngsters to stay in education, so they can raise the expectations of those from disadvantaged families, as education is the key to social mobility.

“Yet here we will have students having to find employment at 16 rather than being able to continue in further education, scuppering their opportunity of going to university and harming their chances of maximising their potential in the job market.”