Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hampshire councillors to review school transport axe

School bus generic
Image caption The changes would harm parents with longer journeys, critics said

Councillors have agreed to review a decision to axe free school transport for the under-fives and some older children.

Previously Hampshire County Council approved wide-ranging changes to its school transport policy in a bid to save more than £1.5m a year.

Opposition Liberal Democrats said four-year-olds might not attend school as a result and rural families would suffer.

The changes will be reviewed by a select committee on 25 May.

Hampshire's ruling Conservatives agreed that only children of compulsory school age would be offered free transport from September 2019, the Local Democracy Reporter Service said.

Children aged eight and over, who currently receive the service if they live more than two miles from school, will only become eligible for transport if they live three miles or more away.

'Risk attendance'

Lib-Dem Jackie Porter said her party had secured the council review.

"Parents in urban areas generally live closer to school so it won't affect them, but for parents with longer journeys this will risk attendance, cause unnecessary cost, inconvenience and even more traffic," she said.

She said one affected area was Fleet's Ancells Farm housing estate, which is more than two miles from the nearest school and would lose its school bus service.

Image copyright William Rimell / Local Democracy Reporter Service
Image caption The school transport cuts were debated by Hampshire councillors

Councillor Keith Mans, in charge of children's services, said: "The provision of home to school transport for Ancells Farm has been brought into line with our policy and entitlement for the rest of the county."

Another Tory councillor Russell Oppenheimer defended the overall cuts.

"Residents have told us that they want resources to be diverted to where there is the greatest need, which this is not," he said.

The authority is trying to tackle an anticipated £140m budget shortfall by April 2019.

A council select committee will debate whether the cuts should be officially "called in" for review.

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