Anger over school bus admin charge

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PARENTS have reacted with anger to letters demanding they pay an admin fee if they want their child to catch the school bus.

Ross Holden, of Stone, is one of 4,700 mums and dads to receive a letter from Bucks County Council requesting £76 – because his 14 year old daughter Aine does not qualify for free transport under national legislation.

The £2 a week fee was agreed at the start of this year, following two public consultations. The changes aim to save between £600,000 and £1.4million-a-year over five years.

Mr Holden said: “It is laughable, because we are in a recession and they think they can get away with this. This in an income stream dressed up as an admin charge, it is over the top.” He also criticised the

requirement to pay by June 1, saying: “They are trying to bank the £76 cheques early, it is a brilliant scam.”

Mandeville School pupil Miss Holden is currently in year 10. She joined the school in Year 7, under direction from Bucks County Council.

The authority currently spends £16.2 million a year on school transport for the 10,000 mainstream pupils who are entitled to it. Officials are concerned that because schools can apply to become academies and determine their own catchment areas, the number using the service will rise.

Stephen Bagnall, the council’s head of prevention and commissioning, said: “Before taking difficult decisions on the eligibility policy we consulted as widely as possible.

“The feedback was that whilst there was opposition to increased charges, respondents said that if it were to be introduced they should be spread as widely as possible. The introduction of the admin charge helps to achieve that. The average cost of transporting a child is £676, so parents being asked to pay the admin fee are still effectively receiving a £600 subsidy.”

Mr Bagnall also stresses that the admin fee is payable by June to ‘allow us to identify existing need and reserve seats for pupils on next year’s buses in good time’.

Officials at the council held two public consultations on the plans, in December 2011 and January 2012 – which received more than 4,000 responses. The council attended 20 public meetings and each child was given a leaflet to take home to their parents that explained the proposals.

The leader of the opposition at Bucks County Council Mary Baldwin said: “I don’t think it is fair what they have done. I think when times are hard this is hurting the wrong people.”