Cambridgeshire schools “could change opening hours”

SCHOOLS in Cambridgeshire could be given financial incentives to change their opening hours to make more efficient use of transport.

Cambridgeshire County Council’s �3million-a-year bus subsidy budget is set to come under severe pressure because of Government cuts to councils and bus operators, so it is looking to find ways of making left over cash go further.

The council plans to organise a summit of businesses, communities and local authorities early next month – neither date nor venue has yet been identified – to brainstorm more efficient ways of meeting transport needs at lower cost.

Deputy leader and cabinet member for transport councillor Mac McGuire believes there must be better ways of using existing resources, such as publicly and community-owned minibuses.

“Often these assets are used for very short periods of time during the day, which is not very efficient,” he said.

“It’s possible that schools could help by changing their start and finish times if that would enable transport to be used more effectively. If it were necessary to provide some sort of financial incentive, it might well be worth while.”

Cllr McGuire believes there are good examples of innovation elsewhere in the country that Cambridgeshire could copy or adapt.

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“I want a co-ordinated approach, not a talking shop. Ideally it would be good to agree things before district councils cut grants in the February budget-setting round. It’s much more difficult to reinstate funding later, even though it’s not impossible,” he said.

“At county level, we expect to lose �160m funding over the next five years, so we have to work smarter together. We don’t need to reinvent the wheel, but it would be good to build on other people’s successful ventures to improve transport in a rural county like Cambridgeshire, where it’s so important.”