School bus cuts consultation extended in West Yorkshire amid concerns

Pressure is mounting over planned cuts to school bus services in parts of Yorkshire as consultations are extended in the wake of parental concerns.

Parents fight to stop St Ignatius school bus from been scrapped. Pictured are parents Gemma Smith, Kim Stoner, Brenda Hamer and Grant Scott with their children.

Earlier this month, authorities in West Yorkshire announced they were looking at provision when it came to door-to-door services, amid a squeeze on council budgets. But, as tests were launched to see if services represented “value for money”, parents questioned the value of a consultation period lasting just 11 days.

Now, in the wake of formal submissions, West Yorkshire Combined Authority has confirmed that it is to grant parents an additional four weeks to voice their views.

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“The engagement period has been extended to enable us to consider the issues raised,” a spokesman said. “This is not a statutory consultation.

“However the combined authority is providing this six week engagement period to allow parents, schools and other interested parties the opportunity to express their views and for us to look at all options available.”

Consultations were launched in early March over Mybus services, with 20 primary school services where passengers numbers have fallen under review.

Across the bus services, WYCA added, there are 480 registered users, of which 350 travel on a regular basis.

“The combined authority organises and subsidises a range of school bus services for around 25,000 pupils and students across West Yorkshire,” a spokesman stressed.

“In the context of reductions in local authority budgets, it is essential the combined authority ensures services continue to demonstrate value for money for local tax payers.

“Engagement is currently taking place with parents, the schools and other interested parties on a plan to withdraw these services at the end of the current school year. Decisions will be made in May and communicated to schools and parents.”

Among those to voice early concern was mother Angela Barker, whose eight-year-old child attends Methley Primary School.

“Schools are inundated with cars surrounding them on a morning and ours is no different. Parents are forever being asked to find alternative transport,” she said.

“However the alternative we have been using is now under threat of removal and so as a working parent I will have no option but to take my daughter to school by car once again.”

The consultation, with letters sent to parents as late as March 5, had initially been due to end on March 15.

Questioning the value of an 11-day consultation when compared to a customary 12 weeks, Ms Barker argued it did not allow time for the changes to be publicised or debated.

The consultation comes as another authority, North Yorkshire County Council, confirmed earlier this month that it too may be looking at proposals to reduce its school bus services.

At present, the council spends more than a third of its education budget - some £24.1m a year - taking children to and from their home and often to their front door.

Such a scheme, the authority has warned, is no longer sustainable and it is looking to reduce spending, bringing its policies in line with Department for Education guidelines.