03 May 2011

Northamptonshire County Council has revised a policy which guides the provision and funding of transport to county pupils aged over 16.

The new guidelines would see all but those on the lowest income pay an annual flat rate fee of £600.

Pupils from low-income families would pay £300, while those with a statement of educational need and from families on a low income would receive free transport.

This latest revision to the policy follows on from a previous revision last summer, which was scrapped almost immediately because of the strength of public feeling about it.

Cllr Heather Smith, county council cabinet member for highways, minerals and waste, said: “We were faced with a system where we were consistently overspent each year, so clearly a revision of the policy was necessary particularly in light of the financial situation in which we currently find ourselves.

“The previous revision addressed the overspend issue but when we started to look at the system on a case by case basis it quickly became clear that some families would be faced with huge transport costs.

“I think this latest revision to the policy introduces a much fairer system, which is still affordable to the majority of people.

“And in cases where people will struggle to afford to pay for transport there is provision to make allowances.”

The council’s new post 16 transport policy has been drawn up after consulting with parents and students. The policy also introduces a more robust and open appeals process for students or their parent/carer to appeal the decision of the county council to award transport.

Other changes include provision for where there are two or more siblings within a household who are both in Post 16 education and who are entitled to support under this policy. In these cases consideration will be given for a further discount for each additional sibling or, in some cases, the additional sibling will receive free transport. Each case will be considered on its own merits and any decision will be made as part of the proposed appeals process.

The new policy will be discussed by the county council’s cabinet on May 10.

Additional information:

The existing policy requires a £400 yearly payment from all students with a 50% discount applied to those students from low income households and all SEN students receiving free transport.

The previous revision had suggested pupils meet all of the costs of their transport, except for SEN students and pupils from low-income families who would be required to pay 50% of costs of their transport. Those with both an SEN and from families on low incomes would have received a 100 per cent discount.

However despite the 50 per cent discount, because of the specialist nature of the transport required by some SEN pupils, families would have faced bills of many thousands of pounds.