Bus Charges Double For School Kids

Home-to-school transport prices is set to double after Dorset Council agreed to new charges - 16-18-year-olds will be most affected.

The council blames soaring transport costs, and the need to make savings following Government cuts, after they approved proposals which will increase charges for concessionary passes and make fewer seats available on school buses.

The council currently runs concessionary schemes to help those pupils not entitled to free school transport. This includes 16-18-year-olds and those travelling to faith schools.

Pupils who dont get free transport can also purchase spare seats on contracted coaches.

The new policy comes into place in September 2011. The key changes include:

-The cost of a concessionary seat will increase from £250 to £400 a year. This works out at just over £2 a day.

-The number of concessionary seats available will reduce, which means there will be fewer seats to apply for.

-The cost of a replacement bus pass will increase from £10 to £20 for second and subsequent replacements.

-Charges will be reviewed annually to avoid substantial increases in the future.

The proposals were developed by a school transport policy panel and discussed by the Community Overview Committee in April before being approved by Cabinet last week.

As there are fewer concessionary seats, all applications will be prioritised against strict criteria, taking into account factors such as disability, special educational needs and medical conditions.

The changes to the policy do not affect pupils who qualify for free school transport.

Dorset County Council's Cabinet member for children's services Toni Coombs said:

"We have to make substantial savings over the coming years across the council and are working hard to protect frontline services.

"However, we can no longer afford to subsidise concessionary home-to-school transport to the extent we have done in the past. Increasing the charges brings Dorset in line with other local authorities and reflects the true cost of providing school transport.

"We appreciate that these changes will be challenging for families and are looking at introducing alternative options for payment, such as increasing the number of instalments, to help ease the burden."

Information will be sent to parents, along with details on how to apply for a seat, on 16 June. For more information visit www.dorsetforyou.com/schooltransportchanges or call 01305 221060.

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