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"There’s just no sense behind it at all"

Parents' anger at West Berkshire Council's school transport price hike

Chris Ord

Reporter:

Chris Ord

Contact:

01635 886639

"There’s just no sense behind it at all"

A SECOND petition has been set up in the hope of getting West Berkshire Council to reconsider increasing the cost of home-to-school transport by almost 200 per cent for some parents.

Two families in Aldermaston have slammed the council’s home-to-school transport policy as ‘mindless and ridiculous’ after they were told they would need to pay £700 for their children’s seat on the school bus to The Willink School in Burghfield Common, while others ride the same service for free.

The council will be introducing the price hike this September.

The service currently costs £250.

Parents Stacey Pulsakowska and Natalie Bartlett, of Aldermaston village, have now set up a petition in the hope of getting the council to reconsider the move.

In the online petition, Mrs Pulsakowska writes: “The Willink School is our catchment school, and a feeder school from Aldermaston Primary.

“If the increase is to go ahead our son, as well as other children who are to be charged this huge amount, will also miss out on the positive social benefits of travelling by bus, as well as the independence they get from using the service.”

This is the second such petition that has been started within a month after parents in Chieveley were also asked to pay £703 to get their children to The Downs School.

Mrs Bartlett, whose 11-year-old son, Alfie, is in Year 7 at The Willink, said: “The school bus collects children everyday from the same stop to take them to the same school to sit in the same class.

“But my son won’t be able to get on the bus from September unless we pay £700.

“Children 40 seconds up the road can get on the bus to school for free – it’s ridiculous.”

West Berkshire Council says the change will only affect children who go to their catchment school, but who live geographically closer to another school.

In this case Mrs Bartlett and her neighbour Mrs Pulsakowska, whose son Luke is also affected, live closer to the Hurst Community College in Baughurst, Hampshire.

In a letter to the council, Mrs Pulsakowska explained one of the reasons her son goes to The Willink was the provision of a school bus from the village.

Mrs Bartlett added: “The Willink is Alfie’s closest school in the district, it’s the closest one for him to travel to going on the footpaths and roads.

“I can’t take my rubbish to a Hampshire tip, it has to be a West Berkshire tip, so why should I have to put my son in a Hampshire school?

“There’s just no sense behind it at all. It’s mindless and ridiculous.”

West Berkshire Council spokeswoman Peta Stoddart-Crompton said the price increase was necessary after the council determined to remove the subsidy for the scheme.

To view the petition, visit www.change.org and search “The Willink”

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Article comments

  • DaveMundy

    03/03/2017 - 14:02

    My honest opinion? Why the heck should council taxpayers pay for student transport to schools outside their catchment area? Of course parents should payfor what they ask for!! I disagreed wholeheartedly with the odious plan that resulted in people having to put in bids for where their children go to school!! And nobody saw this coming? Course not ...... as usual, especially when dealing with this council!!

    Reply

  • gumby

    28/02/2017 - 19:07

    Yeah, I'd say this is a bit harsh. Either way the kids are going to be getting a bus, it reads like the council saves money on not providing any bus service for them and a charge for a different bus, I'd have them pay the difference between the cost.

    Reply

  • Louise

    Louise

    28/02/2017 - 15:03

    Councils are under severe fiscal pressure & have to draw some lines which obviously disadvantage some. You pay up, move or do some car sharing with others. WBC taxpayers can't keep subsidising your kids expenses.

    Reply

    • BerrysBottom

      28/02/2017 - 23:11

      They did this in Bucklebury last year - the bus went from free to £684 per year. The free bus was full. The community clubbed together and got a community bus to take the chikdren to school, still charging, but much less. The bus is smaller and does three trips up and down the hill. However, the big 53 seater coach that cost £48k that the Council were trying to save, still comes each day and collects the handful of children entitled to free transport and the few who pay. So what exactly have they saved?

      Reply

    • richr

      28/02/2017 - 19:07

      These parents are doing exactly what they're told to do by the council. The council has a preferred (catchment) school that they want the children to go to, and these parents have dutifully done as requested and applied for the preferred school. The council has now come back with a different department (transport) saying it is the wrong school and they'll have to pay up. Of course, it'll be easy to get free transport -- just apply for a space at the physically closer non-preferred, non-catchment school (which doesn't necessarily have a bus going to it from that location, but that's a mere detail). But they don't want you to do that and they won't get a place at it anyway, so back to the catchment school.

      Reply

    • JonnyRoberts87

      28/02/2017 - 16:04

      Maybe we should stop subsidising each other's school places or hospital visits too? Jeez where does it end. Irony of those making the cuts arguing 'we're in it together'

      Reply

  • NWN_reader

    28/02/2017 - 11:11

    The costs sound reasonable to me. A child attends school 190 days a year, that’s 380 trips, making bus ticket £1.84 per trip. Sending them on the bus saves you the cost of petrol in your car each day and also save you the time it takes to do the school run. In fact if you are not out doing the school run if frees you up to be out working, which even at minimum wage (£7.20) means you are quids in. It's unfair some people closer get the transport for free. Perhaps your petition should be to get everyone to pay, which would bring down the price even further.

    Reply

    • richr

      28/02/2017 - 19:07

      Thanks for doing the calculation. I'll have two children paying, so £3.68 per trip. Each round trip is 30 minutes, minimum wage £3.60 for the half hour. Oh, and I pay tax and NI, so I'd only actually get about £2.50 for the half hour (less if I was higher rate payer) So, definitely better off driving. Even better, I can car-share with my neighbours and save even more money. Shame about all that congestion outside school -- but I suppose it is what the council wants.

      Reply

      • NWN_reader

        28/02/2017 - 20:08

        If your kids come back from school on the bus you don't have to leave work at 3pm and can stay on until 5pm or later like normal people do, and get 2 hours worth or more of extra wages per day, so £14.40+ even at minimum wage. Hopefully you have a better paid job than that though. Secondary school kids should be sensible enough to be at home alone for 2 hours and do their home work.

        Reply

        • richr

          28/02/2017 - 21:09

          Your initial belittling of the problem didn't work out, so throw up a new argument. Look, my neighbours have 4 children. Potentially £2,800 a year to pay out. 4 grand pre tax. Easy peasy. And they've not done anything they're aren't supposed to -- they're just doing what the council wants and sending their children to the catchment school. Their only solution is to try to get the children into the non-catchment school (about 0.5 mile closer as the crow flies) and wait for the council to sort out a bus for them (which will be free whether there's currently one or not). Perhaps even end up with children split between two schools (some get into the non-catchment school, some don't), which is a hassle for everyone. The council have a duty to provide free transport to the closest school -- if there is a problem then just sort out the school catchments so that it works out. Oh, but they can't do that as the closest (non-catchment) school is over-subscribed.

          Reply

        • NWN_reader

          01/03/2017 - 11:11

          They chose to have 4 children and live in the middle of nowhere. Trouble is people always want things for free. Sometimes you just have to pay your way in life. With 4 children they already receive £3213.60 in child benefits every year, perhaps they can use that money to pay the £2,800 bus fees?

          Reply

        • richr

          01/03/2017 - 22:10

          You know what -- I don't think they necessarily want it for free. I think many would be happy to contribute. But it does grate a bit when they're asking for more than the cost to the council. What makes it stupid is that it is a one-off hit. Parents of children affected can't easily change school -- the council don''t have to accept them at the closer (non-catchment) school if they apply to change -- catch 22. Whereas parents from this year on will be wise to it and apply to the closer non-catchment school -- either they get into that school (and the council has to provide a free bus even if there isn't one already) and if they don't get in, they'll get the free (yes, now free, as they didn't get their preferred school) bus to the catchment school. This is a cynical make-money scheme, which, like all clever council schemes, will end up backfiring and costing everyone (not just the parents) more time and money.

          Reply

        • hgv1driver

          hgv1driver

          04/03/2017 - 22:10

          Great debate we want you on the council

          Reply

    • Marco

      28/02/2017 - 16:04

      That sounds reasonable to me.

      Reply

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