Thousands back bus travel fight

Coun Jackie Drayton.
Coun Jackie Drayton.
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FAMILIES will be hit by a ‘huge unanticipated bill’ if plans to abolish free bus travel for Catholic school pupils in Sheffield go ahead.

The claim was made by angry parents, church representatives and even pupils who asked heated questions at a full meeting of the city council.

The move to withdraw bus subsidies – which would save the council £250,000 a year – has sparked a row, with parents of around 1,000 children fearing it would cost them at least £200 annually.

Jim Conway, speaking on behalf of the Diocese of Hallam and Catholic secondary schools, presented a 3,000-strong petition against the proposal.

Mr Conway said: “Those on a low income will be the most disadvantaged by the proposal, especially if they have several children.

“They will be hit by a huge unanticipated bill.”

Parent Josephine Cain, one of several people who asked public questions about the move, said she had asked three alternative schools to show her round but ‘nobody was interested’.

Others claimed the move was ‘discriminating’ and one Notre Dame Catholic High School pupil asked how his parents would manage to pay for their four children to travel from the outskirts of Sheffield.

The council’s cabinet is due to decide the plans next Tuesday, December 12, and consultation with families ended earlier this week.

Chiefs say the move would bring Catholic children in line with the rest of the city.

Coun Jackie Drayton, responding to the petition, said to Mr Conway ‘draconian’ government cuts meant the council was having to look at all discretionary spending.

She added: “It’s very clear the things you say are distressing but we are facing distressing times unfortunately.

“I would ask the schools and the Diocese of Sheffield to come together to help those families that are going to be in hardship, to help them and ensure they can continue to be at the school they want to be at.

“I have to say this is not our decision. It’s been forced on us by the coalition Government’s draconian cuts and I’m sorry we even have to think about it but we do and that is the reality.”