203Councillors in County Durham will be asked to agree changes to free school transport entitlement when they meet next week (March 16).

A report to Durham County Council’s Cabinet recommends the removal of automatic entitlement to free home to school transport for some students where this is currently provided at the council’s discretion.

The move would be expected to save approximately £740,000 by 2019 and would be part of a series of measures aimed at managing reductions in public sector funding.

If agreed, the changes will mean the removal of the automatic entitlement to free transport for pupils in years 10 and 11 who move house during these exam years, post-16 students who do not have access to viable public transport and post-16 students who can’t travel independently due to a medical condition or disability.

The recommendation follows a consultation on the proposals, between September and November 2015, in which 146 responses were received.

Analysis of the results shows that while the majority of those who responded were not in favour of the proposals, many of them said they would not be personally affected.

Cllr Ossie Johnson, Cabinet member for children and young people’s services at Durham County Council, said: “This is one of a number of difficult decisions we and other councils are having to make in the light of the very challenging financial circumstances we face.

“We know that these changes will affect young people and under the proposals being put forward we will continue to consider support for those facing exceptional circumstances.

 

 

“In particular we recognise that in rural areas post-16 students can often have long distances to travel and we will work with families to ensure they apply for any bursary or funding they may be entitled to.”

The changes would only apply to new applicants from September 2016 and in cases where there are exceptional circumstances the council will continue to look at whether assistance can be provided.

Those currently in receipt of free home to school transport until the existing arrangements – approximately 334 young people – will continue to do so until they reach the end of their course.

The report to Cabinet sets out the results of the consultation which took place last year as well as details of how the county council will seek to ensure young people, families and schools are supported where possible.

Cabinet will meet to consider recommendation next Wednesday (March 16) at County Hall.