School bus fare subsidy is unfair to the majority

I WRITE in response to Julie Cartledge’s letter (Derbyshire Times, September 29, 2011) about the ending of unfair bus subsidies for some Derbyshire school children.

We know some parents and schools are disappointed that we are removing this unfair subsidy but we cannot continue to pay for services which 2,250 pupils are not entitled to receive – around two per cent of the total school population. The current situation is not fair on all other pupils who don’t benefit from this subsidy. It also costs council tax payers almost £1m to provide each year – more than £400 per pupil.

The overwhelming majority of pupils – around 90,000 children – do not receive this subsidy or other financial help in getting to and from school. This is because they live under the distance required to qualify for free transport – three miles for secondary-age pupils and two miles for primary-age pupils. This is a national policy reviewed by the previous Government in 2008.

Nothing will happen to the current arrangements until April 2012. That is so the county council can work with schools and communities to find alternatives, including replacement commercial services. We are also looking at what improvements we can make to cycle and walking routes as part of our safer routes to school programme.

Across Derbyshire, almost 9,000 children are entitled to free transport and they will continue to receive it.

The county council faces a £90m cut in spending over the next four years. Where we have to make savings – we are targeting those areas which will have the least impact on people and services. Identifying and removing unfair subsidies is part of this efficiency drive.

I hope this explains the situation and the reasons for our decision.

Cllr Mike Longdon

Cabinet member for education