Bradford Council is likely to push through controversial cuts to free school transport, despite opposition from rival political parties and within its own party.
The Council’s executive will meet on Tuesday to discuss the cost-cutting measures, which will see the Council end discretionary travel assistance for people attending faith schools, under fives with special educational needs, pupils whose parents move house and to pupils attending school further than the statutory walking distance from their homes.
And officers have recommended the cuts go ahead, despite a petition signed by hundreds of parents whose children attend faith schools, opposition councillors and even the Labour Party’s parliamentary candidate for Keighley and Ilkley.
John Grogan has urged councillors on the Labour-run executive to “think again” on the cuts, adding: “Up to 1,000 pupils in the district who currently receive discretionary free transport could be affected and many of them are at Catholic schools.
“I think councillors should consider carefully the unintended consequences of removing free transport from faith-based schools.”
The proposals come as the Council is facing increased budget pressures, and a report sent to members of the executive says the services being cut are not provided by most councils. The cuts would not affect children currently receiving free transport to school, or those eligible for free school dinners. The new criteria would start in October and apply to pupils attending school from September 2015.
The issue has been harshly received by parents – over 350 people signed a petition saying the changes would severely affect families in the Ilkley area. However public drop-in sessions regarding the changes were poorly attended in other areas – in Bradford just two people showed up.
Catholic groups had said the policy was discriminatory, but the Council report says it complies with the Human Rights Act.
Councillor Roger L’Amie believes the savings from some of the cuts proposed are not significant enough to justify them.