Monday, April 30, 2007

Tory / Lib Dem plans for Bridgend school transport cuts

The above photo was taken last Wednesday outside Bridgend Council when parents from Brackla held a protest against Tory-Lib Dem plans to implement huge cuts in its free school transport provision.

The parents hired a campaign bus to ferry them from Brackla to the Civic Offices where they were met by myself and Mel Nott (Council Labour Group Leader). They handed over a 884 signature strong petition in opposition to the proposals.

I have made my views on this issue clear since the Tories and Lib Dems first made their suggestions public back in December.

These proposed cuts in provision will hit pupils and students across the County Borough. Hundreds of young people in Bridgend depend on subsidised and free transport to get to and from their schools and colleges and if these changes go ahead, many of them will be adversely affected.

Parents whose children will be excluded from the free transport scheme under these plans will be hit with a double whammy if they need to send them to school on the same buses but as paying customers instead. For the average family, with say two children of school age, the Lib Dem/Tory coalition’s proposal to double charges will cost parents an extra couple of hundred pounds per year. It is also likely that if these cuts go ahead then parents will opt to take their kids to school by car instead, creating more pollution and congestion on the town’s roads.

If the council decides to reduce the post-16 transport funding then a lot of young people will be deterred from continuing in education and training which will have important implications for the local economy.

People will also be highly sceptical of their proposals in relation to pupils attending denominational or Welsh medium schools. It is quite clear that they are looking for ways of cutting back expenditure in that area. Families have the right to send their children to these schools and they should not be penalised financially for doing so.

The council was due to discuss the matter at the full council meeting on Wednesday but it was taken off the agenda. That decision was particularly disappointing for all the parents who had made such an effort. However the protest clearly showed the strength of feeling that this has caused and I am sure that they will be back out in force when it comes around again.

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