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Proposed Home to School Transport Policy 2015

Introduction

Oxfordshire County Council’s budget is being reduced as part of the government’s plan to get the nation’s finances in order. Between 2010/11 and 2017/18, our government grant will have been reduced by 40%. As a result we need to reduce spending on services, including Home to School Transport, which currently costs about £15 million per year.

Background

Oxfordshire County Council is running a new consultation on proposals to change its Home to School Transport policy following a decision in July to look again at the plans.

The current Home to School Transport policy is more generous than the national 'statutory minimum' (what we must provide by law), which means the Council spends more than it is legally obliged to.  In addition, charges for 'concessionary fares' on Home to School Transport (i.e. where spare seats on school buses are used by children who are not entitled to free transport) do not cover the full cost to the Council, which means they are subsidised by public funds.

Given the on-going pressure on public finances and the need for the Council to identify large savings across all service areas, this level of spending is not considered sustainable.  We want a thriving Oxfordshire, and pledge to make savings as fairly as possible, while protecting services for those in greatest need.

Following extensive feedback during the summer, when the Council deferred its decision on potential changes to the Home to School Transport policy, revised proposals to reduce the range of schools to which children would qualify for free transport are now being put forward for consultation.  These proposals would bring the Council's policy into line with the national statutory level, as well as with similar policies adopted by neighbouring councils. One of the proposals regarding free travel is to provide only the statutory minimum (transport to the nearest available school if it is over the age determined “statutory walking distance”). However, there is an alternative proposal to establish travel areas to avoid splitting some communities. If this alternative proposal is agreed we would work with schools and communities to achieve acceptable and cost effective local solutions.

The Council is also consulting on options to raise concessionary fares on school buses and a proposal to remove references to Collaborative Learning Transport in its Home to School Transport policy.

The proposed changes would not affect parents' or carers' rights to express preferences for any three schools, nor would they reduce the rights of low income families to receive free transport to any of the three nearest secondary schools within two to six miles.  The general entitlement to free travel to the nearest school with an available place if it is over the statutory walking distance (three miles for those aged eight to 16 and two miles for those of school age who are below the age of eight) would also remain unaffected.

Have your say

Please click here to read the consultation document.

Please click here to fill in the questionnaire.

Or email your views to: transport.consultation@oxfordshire.gov.uk

Alternatively you may print out the consultation document and questionnaire and post it to us free of charge to: Home to School Transport Consultation, FREEPOST OXFORDSHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL.

If you need a hard copy of the consultation document and questionnaire please contact the council by telephone on 01865 815175 or email admissions.schools@oxfordshire.gov.uk

There has been a series of Public Meetings to support this consultation.

When will decisions be made?

All consultation responses received by the closing date will be collated and analysed. A final decision is due to be made at a special cabinet meeting, with a date to be announced in due course.

Councillors will weigh the views expressed in the consultation against a wide number of other factors when making decisions including statutory requirements, government guidance, cost, risk, demography and other issues captured as part of the council's service and community impact assessment process. In light of all the evidence presented to them, Cabinet will decide whether or not to take the proposed changes forward.

Any agreed changes to entitlement to free transport would apply from September 2015 onwards. The consultation includes separate options for the phasing-in of any changes. Changes to the Concessionary Fare Scheme, if agreed, would be implemented from September 2014.

We look forward to receiving your response to this important consultation.

This consultation has now closed and feedback is available.

Consultation Documents

Consultation Summary

Consultation Summary
Name Proposed Home to School Transport Policy 2015
Description Consultation on the proposed Home to School Transport Policy 2015
Dates From 4 Nov 2013 at 14:00 to 14 Jan 2014 at 23:59. The results were published on 30 Jan 2014.
Status Complete
Contact Name Neil Darlington
Contact Email Address transport.consultation@oxfordshire.gov.uk
Contact Phone Number 01865 815175
Contact Postal Address School Admissions
County Hall
New Road
Oxford
OX1 1ND
Contact Details

Consultation Topic Education & learning, Roads & transport
Target Audience Oxfordshire residents, Families and parents, Carers, Councillors, Schools
Geographical Area Banbury, Bicester, Kidlington and Yarnton, Oxford City, Benson, Berinsfield and Wallingford, Chalgrove, Thame Watlington and Wheatley, Goring and Henley, Didcot, Abingdon, Faringdon, Grove and Wantage, Burford and Carterton, Charlbury, Chipping Norton and Woodstock, Witney