Durham County Council is proposing to axe free buses for students in £740,000 cost-saving measures.
Changes to free school transport entitlement, to come into force in September 2016, will be considered by councillors next week as part of a series of measures aimed at managing reductions in public sector funding.
The local authority is proposing to remove the automatic entitlement to free home to school transport for some students where this is currently provided at the council’s discretion.
The council currently continues to provide free transport to some students beyond what is legally required, but this would stop under the proposals – a move the council says will save £740,000 by 2019.
Cabinet members are being asked to agree to a consultation on the proposals before making a final decision.
The proposals are to remove the automatic entitlement to free home to school transport for pupils in years 10 and 11 who move house while in the middle of their exam years, post-16 students who live in areas where there is no viable public transport system and post-16 students who cannot travel independently due to a medical condition or disability.
Cllr Ossie Johnson, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Durham County Council, said: “Any changes to home to school transport arrangements will inevitably have an impact on students and their families.
“We also recognise that there will be exceptional cases where we may still need to provide free transport on a discretionary basis so these proposals would still allow for this to happen.
“We want to seek the views of those who would be affected by the proposals before any final decision is made.”
The report recognises that there will be exceptional circumstances and in those situations the provision of free transport would still be considered based on a set of criteria – also outlined in the report.
The proposals include plans to set up a Hardship Fund to meet transport costs in exceptional circumstances where families need financial support.
They also include the option for concessionary seats to be made available for post-16 students on school transport already provided by the council in areas where there is inadequate public transport to meet students’ needs.
The council would look at alternative ways to meet the transport needs of post-16 students who cannot travel independently due to a medical condition or disability.
This would include ensuring families are in receipt of the correct benefits, supporting people to access Education Funding Agency bursary funding and helping to equip students to enable them to travel independently.
Transport requirements for these students would be considered with families during discussions about post-16 education or training during a review which takes place while students are in Year 11.
If implemented, the changes would begin in September 2016. However, any affected students who are already in receipt of free transport would continue to do so until the end of their course.
Cabinet will meet to consider the proposals on Wednesday 16th September at County Hall.