Labour Councillors have challenged the administration’s decision to impose charges for Home-to-School travel on low income families at today’s meeting of Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet.
The Cabinet approved plans to remove free educational transport for families who are in receipt of working tax credits at the maximum level or free school meals from September 2015.
Speaking against the proposals Labour Leader Cllr Sandy Martin highlighted the difficulties that low income families will face when the new proposals start to bite. He highlighted the plight of those working families who are already struggling to make ends meet and who will now be hit with an additional cost of £540 per child just to send their children to school.
He said “These proposals will hit those on the edge of the benefits system hardest, those families that are striving to do the best they can, will be hit by further costs imposed by the Conservative run Suffolk County Council they had not budgeted for, or expected”.
The issue is compounded by the lack of County Council control over academy schools. Academies have the power to set their own term times and length of the school day. These powers mean that the County Council is left with potentially huge bills to pay in order to fulfil their statutory duties to provide transport to schools. In some cases the changes to the school day in one academy have left the council with a bill of over £30,000. The more academies that decide to change their opening times the greater the costs to the council will be.
Labour Shadow Spokesperson for Education and Skills, Cllr Sonia Barker said; “To increase the costs for Home to School travel at this time when the cost of living crisis is hitting parents the length of Suffolk is hugely unfair. The amount of money this increase will raise is miniscule. The Conservative Administration has once again targeted those parents who are battling daily to do the best for their children”.
She added; “Having children in school is vital to their learning, it is not rocket science. These increased costs facing families will mean further pressures on their already stretched budgets. This administration seems hell bent on making life harder not easier”.