Thursday, April 18, 2024

Children at faith schools face fares hike

MOST people whose children attend denominational schools and who rely on council-provided transport for them to get to class will have to pay from September.

Following a major consultation exercise last year, Thurrock Council’s cabinet agreed the “three-tiered” fees on Wednesday (19 March) evening.

Introducing the item, Council Leader, Cllr John Kent explained how cabinet had previously agreed to introduce a charging scheme for Education Transport to deliver the £300,000.

He said: “We need to do this because we have already had to withstand £30 million worth of cuts and we’re facing – at least that much again – so we obviously have to find ways of saving money.

“On the other hand, in this instance, parents have chosen somewhere for their children to go to school partly on the basis that we would subsidise their travel.

“It seems unfair not to include denominational school transport in our savings, but at the same time it seems equally unfair to land huge extra charges on parents who would have to find the money or disrupt their child’s education.

“That was the outcome of our consultation and that’s why we have come up with the compromise I am recommending this evening.”
He emphasised that those people who are entitled to free school transport will still receive free school transport.

But he said: “For students who are starting school this coming September – subject to free travel entitlements – we will charge £5.88 a day or £1,117 a school year, the actual cost of the scheme.

“For students who are already attending school we will be offering a 50 per cent discount – £2.89 a day or £550.

“However for those who can show that they cannot afford this discounted rate, but who do not qualify for free transport, we will have a fund available so we are able to help where necessary.”

Cllr Kent said: “Although we need the savings now, we will make the full saving in four years time and we will save more each year; starting this September.

“It is important to remember that we don’t have to do this at all, this is not a service we receive funding for and we would be quite entitled to charge the full rate, but it’s also worth remembering that we’ve also agreed a £400 concessionary fee for spare seats on our contracted buses and this discounted rate is in a similar range.”

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