Opposition councillors from all parties on Suffolk County Council have successfully challenged the administration’s decision to change the home-to-school transport policy to a nearest school system. This means that the decision made by the Cabinet will be put on hold until it can be further investigated by the Scrutiny Committee on the 9th July.
The ‘call-in’ was successful on three fronts; first, there is concern at the quality and reliability of the financial modelling; second, whether the Cabinet were fully informed of the role of the Consultation Institute; and third, whether there was enough weight given to the experience of Essex County Council who actually had a rise in mainstream home to school transport costs when they implemented the same nearest school policy.
All of this means that the council will need to convince the Scrutiny Committee that they had all the available information available to make an appropriate and well-informed decision, something the councillors who made the call-in dispute.
The call in was proposed by Labour’s Cllr Jack Abbott and seconded by the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group leader Cllr Andrew Stringer.
Cllr Abbott said; “We have been saying for months now that the financial modelling simply does not stack up. I wonder how much money has been wasted defending the line saying that home to school transport will cost £45m, something people can now see is misleading at best. The finances don’t add up and never have done. We are delighted for the schools, parents, carers and children who have been fighting against this ridiculous policy change.”
Cllr Andrew Stringer said; “We’re delighted the call-in has been successful. Over the past few months, opposition councillors, schools and parents have all been very vocal about the flaws in this policy. This decision shows that our numerous concerns are entirely valid. The financial modelling simply isn’t good enough to justify such a drastic and damaging policy change. Not analysing the experience of Essex County Council was just irresponsible. We hope the Scrutiny Committee will recognise these errors and send the report back.”
The report will be reviewed by the Scrutiny Committee on the 9th July 2018.