Shropshire Council agrees to consult over cuts to school transport funding
Shropshire Council is to consult over plans to change school transport funding which could see parents having to make bigger contributions to their child's travel costs.
The council's cabinet agreed to go out to public consultation over cost cutting proposals as part of this year's budget.
If agreed the cuts would see higher bills for some families, while nursery transport for children with special educational needs would be withdrawn completely.
Councillor Nick Bardsley, portfolio holder for children and young people, stressed that those received help with school transport costs would not have to pay any increases.
"If approved, the changes would apply to new families joining the scheme. Those already receiving help would be protected," he said.
Under the plans, some families would see their financial contribution to to travel costs rise from £142.50 to £437.50 a year.
Post 16 special educational needs pupils would have to make a contribution for the first time under the proposals while the nursery special educational needs transport provision would be withdrawn completely, saving £60,000.
"The average school transport cost per pupil is £3,500 - we are talking about a few hundreds pounds contribution," he said.
He said the council was planning to save more than £700,000 on its transport budget by making a range of changes. Those affecting parent contributions would be about £200,000 of those savings.
"The proposals that we want to consult on have been changed quite a bit from the much more radical proposals that were first discussed. And they are simply proposals and could change following the public consultation."
Councillor Roger Evans said the changes could have a devastating affect on some users.
He also claimed that the changes would amount to a rural tax something council leader, Councillor Peter Nutting, said he would not accept.
"This will apply to children in urban as well as rural areas," he said.
There was criticism of the bus service in general in the south of the county from Councillor Madge Sheinton from Cleobury Mortimer.
"We have a poor apology for a bus service in our area," she said.
"I am concerned for the Post 16 students who go to Ludlow and Kidderminster and have to wait for an hour or more for their transport."
The council will now undertake a six-week consultation during March and April with various stakeholders.
The results of the consultation will be analysed and compiled before returning to cabinet on May 1 for a decision on whether to adopt and changes to the policy.
Any changes will come into effect from September 1 and will be applicable to new applicants.