Fairer school buses scheme

WIGAN Metro leaders have agreed to adopt a new fairer policy on school transport that could save council tax payers up to half a million pounds a year.

At the moment the council pay the fares of children who go to faith schools at a cost of £500,000 a year. From September the authority will cease to fund that transport but has pledged to continue to provide free travel to those who need it most – children eligible for free schools meals and/or whose parents are entitled to full working tax credit and children with special educational needs.

A meeting of the council’s ruling Cabinet heard at its meeting last week that by law, the authority has an obligation to provide free transport to children who live more than three and less than six miles away from their nearest school. The council also has a duty to provide travel for children living more than two miles (and less than six) away from school if they are entitled to free school meals and/or their parents are entitled to full working tax credit.

The majority of those who responded to a consultation did not wish to see the current arrangements changed but concerns were also expressed that the present system was not fair and equitable and benefits one group of pupils above others.

Wigan Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Coun Susan Loudon, says: “Many people will now be fully aware that Wigan like other authorities across the country is facing significant pressure on its resources. We believe it is not fair to fund one group of children at the exclusion of others. The borough cannot afford to provide free transport for everyone so the next fairest option is to remove the subsidy for faith schools.”