Posted: 16.01.20 at 13:43 by The Editor
The Vale council has carried out public consultation and compiled a report on proposals to withdraw funding for its fare-paying school bus services which would affect pupils from Barry and further afield.
After consideration of the report, Cabinet seeks approval for the withdrawal of funding of Council supported fare-paying school bus services with effect from 1st September 2020.
Out of 411 responses, 68% of respondents stated that they strongly disagreed with the proposals, with 11% disagreeing, 8% agreeing, 9% strongly agreeing and the rest stating they didn’t know.
Public Consultation Comments:
• The main comment received from respondents, with 26% of all responses, was related to safety concerns for pupils where proposals to go ahead.
• 19% of responses were related to increased traffic and pollution because of the proposals as parents/ guardians will become more likely to transport their children to school in cars.
• 13% of responses commented that the proposals discriminate against low-income households and 7% said that it unfairly discriminates against children/ young people as opposed to the whole population.
• Comments stating that proposals specifically discriminate St Richard Gwyn pupils amounted to 5% and 4% of responses suggested that pupils’ school attendances would be affected with one reasoning being that
those choosing to walk might not attend school on a rainy day.
• Responses included comments stating that the proposals discriminate against pupils from rural areas (2%), parents/ guardians without a car (2%), Welsh-medium school pupils (2%) and disabled children (1%).
Fare paying school bus services are provided to cater for pupils who live less than the eligible qualifying distance for free school transport. More than 300 pupils who are not eligible for free transport are estimated to use the fare-paying services.
The qualifying distances for free school transport are set by Welsh Government with free school transport offered to primary aged pupils who live two miles or more from their catchment/local area school and secondary aged pupils who live three miles or more from their catchment/local school.
Councils are currently facing major budget pressures and need to make savings of £3.7million in the 2019/20 financial year.
The removal of council subsidies towards fare-paying school bus services was put forward as a way to cut costs.
Pupils entitled to free school transport would not be affected by this proposal.
The 2018/19 financial year budget to fund fare-paying school transport services was £242,191.00.
Financial support for fare-paying school transport services is not a statutory duty of the Council. The proposal to withdraw this funding could save the Council in the region of £180k per academic year.
If the funding for is withdrawn, £57,000 of the money saved would go towards providing free transport to eligible pupils who used them.
The council argues that the creation of Active Travel routes to and from schools, particularly for those pupils who do not qualify for free school transport as they do not meet the required distance criteria, have made it easier for pupils to walk and cycle to school,
The services which would be affected are:
• P125 Watts Coaches Ltd, Ysgol St Curig and Ysgol St Baruc (Barry);
• P135 New Adventure Travel Ltd, St Andrews Major C/W Primary School (Barry);
• S10 Watts Coaches Ltd, Pencoedtre and Whitmore High School/ Ysgol Bro Morgannwg (Barry);
• S14 Watts Coaches Ltd, Pencoedtre and Whitmore High School (Barry); S2 Watts Coaches Ltd, Whitmore High School and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg (Barry Island, Barry);
• S49 Caring Coaches, St Richard Gwyn R/C Secondary Schoool (Barry);
• P132 Watts Coaches Ltd, Ysgol Pen Y Garth (Dinas Powys);
• P133 New Adventure Travel Ltd, St Joseph’s R/C Primary School (Dinas Powys, Sully, Penarth);
• S51 Caring Coaches, St Richard Gwyn R/C Secondary School (Llandough/ Cogan/ Penarth/ Sully);
• S53 Watts Coaches Ltd, St Richard Gwyn R/C Secondary School (Penarth/ Dinas Powys).
• P139 Watts Coaches Ltd, Ysgol Pen Y Garth (Sully and Penarth);
• 351 Peyton Travel Ltd, St Athan Primary School (Eglwys Brewis);
• P122 Peyton Travel Ltd, Llangan Primary School (Treoes);
• P138 Watts Coaches Ltd, St Illtyd R/C Primary School (MoD St Athan, West Camp);
• P97 Watts Coaches Ltd, Llansannor C/W Primary School (Cowbridge/ Aberthin/ Ystradowen);
Talks between the council and the current operators have identified three services out of the 15 which could be commercially viable with fare increases.
The council held preliminary talks with operators to see which services would be likely to be commercially viable with an increase in fares, estimated to be £1-£2 for single and £2-£3 for a return journey.
Three services were considered potentially viable; S10 for Pencoedtre High School, Whitmore High School and Ysgol Bro Morgannwg, S14 for Pencoedtre High School and Whitmore High School and S49 for St Richard Gwyn RC High School.
The council report said that the current operators “have concerns over increasing fares and the reduction in passenger numbers this will cause, which ultimately will decide if the service can run long term on a commercial basis. All other services were not considered by current operators to be commercially viable.”
The proposals will face the Environment and Regeneration scrutiny committee on the 21st of January before being passed by to the cabinet for a final decision.