Agenda, decisions and minutes
Contact: Nicola Gittins 01352 702345
Declarations of Interest
To receive any declarations and advise Members accordingly.
The Cabinet Member confirmed that, under the Councillors’ Code of Conduct,he did not have an interest in the report.
As detailed in the recommendations.
The Chief Officer (Education and Youth) introduced the report and explained that in June 2019, Cabinet made the decision to amend the Discretionary Transport Policy and introduce a charge for Post 16 transport to come into effect from September 2020. The charge was designed to offset some of the cost pressures within the Medium Term Financial Strategy.
Regulations for Public Service Vehicle Accessibility (PSVAR) were published in August 2019 and the implications on school transport provision became known. Those regulations would not allow charging for places on buses and coaches which were not fully compliant for accessibility. The regulations were due to come into force for the 2021/22 academic year.
As the transport fleet used locally for transporting learners did not fully meet those requirements, and unless a ‘blanket exemption’ for school transport was forthcoming from the Department for Transport, the Council would be in breach of those regulations at the point at which they would come into force if the Council was operating a charging policy for post 16 discretionary transport.
The Council has had to reconsider the earlier decision based on (1) the unsustainability of the charging policy with the onset of the Government Regulations; (2) the risks of attempting to introduce a short-term policy in an emergency situation when there was no certainty as to when schools would re-open; and (3) options for a different transport funding model with Coleg Cambria.
The Council transported 1950 post 16 students – 1500 to Coleg Cambria and 450 to Sixth Forms at Secondary Schools. The annual cost of providing this discretionary transport was £860k. Under a long standing service level agreement with Coleg Cambria, the College contributed 25% towards those transport costs thereby reducing actual costs to the Council to £645k per annum. The Coleg Cambria contribution of £215k (25%) was proportionately low when taking into account that 77% of students were transported to the college.
The Chief Executive explained that discussions were taking place with the new Chief Executive of Coleg Cambria to consider the implications of the new transport regulations. The Governing Body of Coleg Cambria were considering options such as reimbursing students individually from September 2020 to offset the transport charge.
The Chief Officer (Education and Youth) said the Council needed to consider whether it was appropriate to introduce a charge for one year only with all the administrative functions required to manage the process, for it to be ceased on year later. This consideration was complicated by the current emergency situation and uncertainty of when schools would reopen and how, e.g. a possible phased approach.
The Chief Officer (Streetscene and Transportation) explained that an extension was being sought from the Department of Transport on delaying the implementation of the new regulations but a response had not yet been received. Work would be undertaken with operators but it would a number of years until they were all compliant with the regulations.
Councillor Roberts supported the rationale behind the recommendations in the report and stressed that this was ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Duration of Meeting
The meeting commenced at 12.15pm and finished at 12.30pm.