Wales

Flintshire sixth-formers to pay for bus transport

School bus in Wales
Image caption Flintshire is one of the few Welsh councils still funding free transport for sixth form or college students

Free transport for hundreds of students in post-16 education in Flintshire is set to be scrapped from next year.

Almost 2,000 youngsters in the county currently receive free travel to their nearest suitable sixth form or college.

Flintshire County Council is one of the few authorities which still funds such a service, costing £750,000 a year.

The cabinet has now backed a plan to charge students £150-£450 a year from September 2020 for travel, except for those who receive free school meals.

Council leader Ian Roberts acknowledged the financial hardship the changes would place on some families, but said it was necessary given the budget shortfall the authority faces.

"We, as a council, have prided ourselves on making post-16 education accessible to all," he said.

"Unfortunately, there is no such thing as free school or college transport as free for the user means that the council taxpayer in general has to foot the bill."

Councillor Roberts recommended the authority explore the possibility of creating a hardship fund for families who have difficulty accessing education because of the charges.

The change was approved despite opposition from a majority of the 647 youngsters and parents who responded to a consultation on the idea, according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Councillor Glyn Banks, cabinet member for finance, added that the money saved amounted to the equivalent of an extra 1% on council tax.

"It's with a heavy heart we have to support this because it's not really much of an option," he said.

"We are going to be protecting the most vulnerable pupils out there."

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