West Berkshire Council

Start date: 2015-11-03
End date: 2015-12-14
Results: 2016-03-03
ARCHIVED

[ARCHIVED] Budget Proposal 2016/17 - Phase One: Home to School Transport

Part of the range of West Berkshire Council's budget proposals for 2016/17, with supporting information and Equality Impact Assessments

If you haven't already seen our video explaining why these changes are being proposed, please visit our Budget Proposals 2016/17 webpage.

Background

Parents are legally responsible for making sure that their children get to and from school at the appropriate times each day. This includes a parent making arrangements for their child to get to and from school when they have work commitments.

West Berkshire Council's pdf icon Home to School Transport Policy [497kb] sets out the circumstances in which it will provide free transport to children and young people travelling to school or college. It relates to West Berkshire residents of statutory school age (from the term following the fifth birthday to the end of Year 11). We spend £1.6m per year on transport to mainstream schools. This is a significant cost at a time of reducing financial resources.

We also provide additional help on a discretionary basis. The scale of budget reductions means that the council needs to prioritise statutory functions and review discretionary services.


Proposal

These proposals reduce the council's free transport provision for mainstream pupils to the statutory minimum. The national transport guidance says that discretionary elements can be charged for.  Where discretionary elements have been retained, the price has been revised to reflect the cost of providing the service.

It is proposed that discretionary aspects of the Home to School Policy are reduced through the following actions:

1. Re-assess every route where transport is currently provided under the 'Availability of a walking route' criteria. Where an available route is identified, the provision of buses would be removed or substantially reduced from April 2016.

Risk assessments are undertaken in accordance with guidance notes issued by Road Safety GB in 2012 'Assessment of Walked Routes to School' and the Department for Education 'Home to School Travel and Transport Guidance'. Assessments do not determine whether a route is 'safe' or 'dangerous'. The term used in the guidance is 'reasonable safety' which would make the walking route available for an accompanied child. This is explained further in our pdf icon Home to School Transport Policy [497kb]. A summary of the information is provided in the attached pdf icon Information Sheet [19kb].

We will assess whether there is an available route between the home address and the school. The assessment is solely to determine whether the child qualifies for free transport under the regulations. We do not determine the arrangements a parent may wish to put in place for their child. It is the parents' responsibility to determine how their child will get to school and this includes making any appropriate arrangements.

The council will have the final decision on whether a route is available. The route does not have to be the most direct route, provided it is within the statutory expectations of walking distance and the route can include, for example, Public Rights of Way. Where the route is designated as an available walking route, free entitlement to transport will be withdrawn from April 2016.

Route from Mortimer to the Willink School

pdf icon Mortimer to the Willink School - detailed map overview of the route [259kb]

pdf icon Mortimer to the Willink School - map of crossing point at Goring Lane [114kb]

pdf icon Mortimer to the Willink School - photographs of the footpath through the Common [18Mb]

pdf icon The Willink School and Mortimer area road assessment [431kb]

pdf icon Mortimer to the Willink School FAQs [5kb]

pdf icon Mortimer to the Willink School Additional FAQs [23kb]

pdf icon Wokefield Common footpath assessment [12kb]

 

Route from Bucklebury to Kennet School

pdf icon Bucklebury to Kennet School - route map [216kb]

pdf icon Bucklebury to Kennet School - footpath assessment [12kb]

pdf icon Bucklebury to Kennet School - photographs of footpath route [22Mb]

pdf icon Bucklebury to Kennet School - road safety report [217kb]

Route from Aldermaston Wharf to Aldermaston Primary School

pdf icon Aldermaston Wharf to Aldermaston Primary School - footpath assessment [375kb]

pdf icon Aldermaston Wharf to Aldermaston Primary School - road safety assessment [40kb]

pdf icon Aldermaston Wharf to Aldermaston Primary School - walking route assessment [14kb]

An initial assessment of routes has identified the following transport routes which would be affected by this proposal. The provision of buses would be removed or substantially reduced to match the capacity required for those pupils who qualify for free transport.

  • The two routes between Aldermaston Wharf and Aldermaston Primary School (boarding at Swan Drive, Footbridge, Mallard Way and Audrey Court, Station Road). Transport for 54 pupils would be removed. (pdf icon Appendix A [206kb] shows the route which has been determined as meeting the national guidelines as an available route).
  • Travel between Bucklebury and Kennet School. The council would no longer pay for the public bus passes for 17 pupils and a bus serving 53 pupils would be removed (pdf icon Appendix B [248kb]).
  • Travel between East Garston and Shefford Primary School. This affects 6 pupils (pdf icon Appendix C [146kb]).
  • Travel between Gidley Wood and Chieveley Primary School. This affects 3 pupils (pdf icon Appendix D [157kb]).
  • The four routes between Mortimer and the Willink School. Transport for 233 students would be removed. We would re-organise the transport provision for the remaining 103 students that are entitled to free transport under other rules to minimise costs. (pdf icon Appendix E [259kb]).

Please note that the re-assessment process is ongoing, and this list is not comprehensive. Other changes may be identified and would be affected by the principles outlined here.

2. Remove the discretionary entitlement to transport to the catchment school for primary school pupils. This change would come into effect in April 2016, and would affect pupils/students purchasing transport for the academic year 2016/17.

Free entitlement to discretionary transport to primary catchment schools would be removed. There is no legal entitlement to provide free transport to the catchment school, only to the nearest school.

If there are spaces available on the school bus, the pupils could purchase a Fare Payer place at the Standard Rate which would be £684 per annum, which is equivalent to £3.60 per return journey per school day, and families can pay in eight instalments (August to March).

3. Make changes to the Fare Payer Scheme.  These changes would come into effect in April 2016, and would affect pupils/students purchasing transport for the academic year 2016/17.

a) Remove the council-funded subsidy on a Fare Payer train pass to match the cost of the train pass to the council.

The net increased price would still represent a subsidised rate for the pupil/student compared to the cost of buying the train pass directly from the train company. This is because the council also obtains a purchasing subsidy, which would remain.

As an example, the most frequently requested rail pass is from Hungerford to Newbury. Under the current scheme, a student pays £230, the pass costs the council £540 and therefore the council is subsidising the pass by £310. If a student bought it direct from the train operator, the price would be approximately £805. Under this proposal and using this example, the student would pay £540 to buy the pass from the council.

b) Remove the discount for siblings in the Fare Payer Scheme.

c) Remove the price subsidy for seats on the school bus under the Fare Payer Scheme.

The price of a Fare Payer seat would increase due to the removal of the existing subsidy. Therefore, the price of a seat will more closely match the cost to the council. To determine the rate, we will use the daily price of a seat on the contracted school bus on our most popular routes x 190 school days per year. The Standard Rate would be £684 per annum which is equivalent to £3.60 per return journey per school day, and families can pay in eight instalments (August to March).

For 2016/17, the Protected Rate of £250 to the catchment school for secondary school pupils in Years 7 to 11 will not be affected by this proposal.

d) Remove universal support for mainstream Post-16 students but retain limited targeted support for post-16 students. 

The universal flat rate of £250 and the universal guarantee of a place on any school bus for post-16 transport would be removed.

For contracted school transport Fare Payer places, there would be a guarantee of a place on the bus for post-16 students (aged under 19 on 31 August) attending their nearest or catchment school/college where:

  • It is over 3 miles from their home to the school/college or less than 3 miles from their home to the school/college but there is not an available walking route for an accompanied student. The Home to School Transport Policy explains how we assess routes.
  • The student applies on time for a Fare Payer place, during the application window.
  • The student would be required to pay the Standard Rate for a Fare Payer seat of £684, which is equivalent to £3.60 per return journey per school day, and families can pay in 8 instalments (August to March).

For low income families, the pdf icon Post-16 Statement [149kb] and pdf icon 16-19 Guide [733kb] explain how to apply for bursary funding to aid with transport costs from the school/college.

We will also consider exceptional circumstances and details of how to apply are in the Post-16 Statement.

Post-16 students who do not qualify for the guarantee of a place would still be able to apply for any spare seats that are available, and would be required to pay the Standard Rate for a Fare Payer seat of £684, which is equivalent to £3.60 per return journey per school day, and families can pay in eight instalments (August to March).

 

Summary of the proposed changes

Actions

Pupils

Savings

Available Routes
Aldermaston Wharf to Aldermaston Primary School

54

£55,400

Bucklebury to the Kennet School

70

£42,000

East Garston to Shefford Primary School

6

£18,700

Gidley Wood to Chieveley Primary School

3

£6,800

Mortimer to the Willink School

233

£123,500

Removal of free primary catchment entitlement

47

£5,000

Changes to the Fare Payer Scheme

 

 
Fare Payer Scheme - Trains (a)

71

£33,200

Fare Payer Scheme - Sibling discount (b)

15

£1,000

Fare Payer Scheme - Buses (c and d)

259

£101,500

Total

758

£387,100


What do we think the impact will be?

Families rely on school transport and it is a key component in their family lives. Changes to the cost or availability of transport will have a negative effect on families. Families may have to change their domestic arrangements as a result of this proposal. There may also be an impact on increased traffic congestion if parents elect to transport pupil/students themselves, rather than use the available walking routes.

The Fare Payer proposals would have a financial impact on families who use the discretionary aspects of our provision. Low income families have additional options regarding free transport entitlement for pupils of statutory school age and low income post-16 students can apply for a bursary from their school/college.

Families above the low income threshold but who are still struggling may find price increases difficult to manage. This will be especially true where a family has more than one child. The existing option to pay in instalments may help, but may not fully mitigate the impact of a rise in prices.


What else have we considered in arriving at our proposal?

Home to School Transport budgets have been reduced year on year for the last four years, primarily through robust procurement and the streamlining of routes and resources. The ability to continue to make savings on Home to School Transport without impacting on families is now exhausted.

The proposal only reduces the council's discretionary mainstream transport provision. Statutory provision is retained.


This consultation is now closed.

What you told us

We received 542 responses to this consultation.

We have condensed all your comments into the 'Summary of Responses' and everything you said, word for word, is contained in 'Verbatim Responses'.

These can be found in 'Documents' below.

What we did

A recommendation on how to proceed with this proposal was made to the Executive Members on 11 February 2016.

This can also be found below in 'Overview and Recommendation'.

Following this, at the Full Council Meeting on 1 March 2016, all Members discussed this proposal as part of setting the Revenue Budget for 2016/17.

At the vote, the budget was agreed with the suggested amendments.

It was agreed to proceed with this proposal.

Further information about the service can be found on our School Transport pages.

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