School transport axed

DISCRETIONARY free transport will be cut in schools across Comet country and Hertfordshire next year, with hundreds of pupils set to miss out.

The decision was made by Herts County Council’s (HCC) Cabinet on Monday, and is expected to save between �5 and �6 million a year from the council’s �25 million annual school transport budget.

Frances Button, executive member for education and skills, said: “In light of financial pressures on the council, we are faced with some tough choices.

“The council as a whole has already identified �139 million of efficiency savings, which will contribute substantially to our overall savings target of �201 million by 2014/15.

“In this difficult economic climate, it’s vital that we continue to identify the best ways to use our resources.

“We appreciate a number of families will be affected by these changes and we are continuing to work with schools to help them find the best possible solutions for their pupils.”

The changes will come into effect at the beginning of the next school year, with some routes axed, some kept, and 24 run by commercial operators. It follows a consultation which received 456 responses countywide.

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Pupils who have a statutory right to school transport will remain unaffected by the changes, with a provision to consider individual cases where there is “financial hardship”.

Cllr Stuart Pile, HCC’s executive member for highways and transport, said: “We are continuing to work with commercial operators to establish viable transport arrangements for pupils who will be affected by these changes.

“We are committed to continue to promote sustainable modes of school travel and will shortly be launching an online survey so parents can tell us about their plans for school travel from September 2012.”