Over 16s to be charged more for school transport

West Sussex County Council
West Sussex County Council

Over 16s who travel to school in transport organised by West Sussex County Council will have to pay more from September.

After a review of the current charges, which were found to be "out of step" with commercial costs and charges made by other counties, the council opted to increase them from £427 per student per year to £600 per student per year .

The decision was not an easy one to make, said Councillor Richard Burrett, the council’s cabinet member for education and skills.

The change will affect around 150 students with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND) and around 175 students who receive concessionary tickets, usually to attend schools or sixth-form in rural areas. It will not affect SEND children from low income families.

A report from Deborah Myers, director of education and skills, said the council would still be “absorbing a loss” even after increasing the charges.

While purchasing a seat on a coach costs around £620 per year, the cost of a taxi or minibus – required by some children with SEND – is around £5,100 per year.

The response to a recent public consultation into the increase was overwhelmingly negative, with 91 per cent of the 181 respondees disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the proposal.

In addition, the council’s children and young people’s services select committee recommended no rise in charges for students with SEND, suggesting instead a 10 per cent increase for concessionary tickets.

Mr Burrett said: “I would encourage students and families to find out if they are eligible for a bursary if they are worried about funding this increase.

“Each college and school administers a 16-19 bursary fund to help with education costs, including transport, for students from families on a low income.”

He added: “Unfortunately we are simply unable to keep subsiding transport for students to the extent we have done in the past. It is not sustainable for us.

“The cost we charge had fallen behind the cost of equivalent journeys on public transport so we simply can no longer subsidise the charge to that extent.

“We acknowledge we could have done more to keep the cost charged over the last few years in-line with increases in equivalent journeys and in line with the amount paid by students in other counties.”

The proposal is to increase the charges from September.

It will result in a total revenue saving for the council of £55,700 – £32,400 in 2018/19 and £23,300 in 2019/20.