Sheffield council rethink on bus passes

Councillor Colin Ross, Sheffield City Council cabinet member for employment, enterprise and development.
Councillor Colin Ross, Sheffield City Council cabinet member for employment, enterprise and development.
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SHEFFIELD Council could be forced to make a U-turn on plans to scrap free travel for children attending Catholic schools.

City bosses look set to backtrack on a decision to cease free transport for pupils of Notre Dame and All Saints following the threat of legal action.

The cabinet voted through reforms on its discretionary travel policy for denominational schools in a bid to save around £250,000 from its budget at a meeting last December, despite objections from 97 per cent of people who took part in the consultation.

Now the council’s department for children, young people and families has recommended a period of further consultation amid fears a legal challenge could lead to a financial disaster.

Jayne Ludlam, executive director of the department, said: “In light of issues raised in a legal challenge regarding the decision to stop funding discretionary denominational transport, and having fully reflected upon the consultation process and the potential impact on some children already in receipt of passes, it has been decided to consult further on the proposal.

“On balance it is better to allow a period of time for further consultation to consider the implications of the representations. This also represents an opportunity to manage financial, legal and reputational risks.”

As part of the process the council will review the impact of the decision on existing pupils at the schools in Granville Road and Fulwood. Parents say they could have to fork out up to £350 a year from this September.

The move has been welcomed by local Liberal Democrats, who questioned the original decision.

Coun Colin Ross, Sheffield’s Liberal Democrat spokesman for education, said: “I’m pleased that the council have agreed to look at this again but it’s a shame that they only agreed to act when threatened with legal action.

“It’s clear that the full consequences of this policy have not been properly considered both on pupils and schools across the city.

“The idea that pupils could be forced to move school halfway through their GCSEs seems deeply unfair.

“Labour leaders were determined to simply rush through the process with complete disregard for the local education and Catholic community.”