09:51AM, Thursday 13 May 2021
A councillor has defended the Royal Borough’s plans to scrap a free school transport concession benefiting Holyport families.
At a Windsor and Maidenhead cabinet meeting on April 29, members agreed on a series of changes to the authority’s ‘Home to School Transport Policy’.
The council is required by law to provide free home to school transport where a child meets certain eligibility criteria, but has also offered additional assistance above the statutory minimum.
The borough launched a consultation earlier this year to seek people’s views on a number of changes to its non-statutory concessions, such as free bus passes for Holyport village pupils travelling to Cox Green School.
Councillors agreed to remove this concession at cabinet, meaning residents of Holyport will have to apply for transport assistance in line with other residents.A total of 6.7 per cent of consultees agreed with this change, which accounted for 24 out of 360 people.
It is estimated that the council hopes to save £74,000 by making these policy alterations.
Bray parish councillor Mike Singh, who represents Holyport, was unimpressed by the proposals.
He said: “What is the point in spending money on the consultation process if you are going to disregard the result anyway?
“They are obviously doing this to save money, but nobody holds the council accountable for the bigger picture.
“It is all very well saying ‘we want to do this to save money’, but this is money wasted by who? It is the council. Why should the people have to pay the price for this?”
Cllr Singh added: “Access to good schools is one of the things that helps with house prices. It is good to know that your house is appreciating. If you start taking these facilities away, then in the long-term it will have an impact.”
Explaining the change, Councillor David Coppinger (Con, Bray) said the council had been looking to get rid of this concession for some time due to intake changes at Holyport College.
He added that these parents could still be able to qualify for transport benefits if they have low income, for example.
“We have been planning to change it for some years because it was unfair on all the other schools and parents,” he said.
“The big change is that Holyport College has changed their criteria – it used to be taking pupils from Windsor as well as Maidenhead, but they now focus on Holyport.
“Rather than this being a bad news story, it is a good news story, because virtually all the children from Holyport can now go to Holyport College, which is where most of them want to go.
“Because there is a safety net in place, I am happy it is the right decision.”
The race to get as many people vaccinated against coronavirus has ramped up in the Royal Borough and Slough amidst an ongoing rise in cases across the country.