Following the decision by Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC) to undertake a consultation on possible changes to post-16 educational transport, Janet Finch-Saunders, Assembly Member for Aberconwy and Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Local Government, is calling on the Welsh Government to do its part to help local authorities maintain free school transport for learners receiving full time post-16 education.
“Conwy County Borough Council (CCBC) have a right to consult on how tax payers’ money is spent, an in particular question the possibility of making up to £420,000 in savings by stopping or limiting non-mandatory spending on providing free transport for pupils receiving post-16 education.
“Since the announcement of the consultation, I have been contacted by a number of concerned constituents. What is clear to me and them is that the preferred and fair option is for the Council to continue to provide free transport.
“Importantly, the cut would hit hard working families hard, even if Option 3 with the waiver based on free school meals was pursued. The reality of the situation is that we should be working to encourage education, not pursuing changes which are causing avoidable worry about even more bills and simply getting to school.
“Undoubtedly, I am fully aware of the fact that the amount of funding being sent by the Welsh Government to local authorities across Wales is placing many, including Conwy, under serious pressure to make savings. Consequently, in addition to calling on the Council to not pursue the scrapping of free post-16 travel, I think that the Welsh Government has a role to play too.
“For example, the Welsh Government has recently been boasting about its trial of providing free long-distance weekend bus travel on Traws Cymru services. Surely, it would be more beneficial to the people of Wales and our future if our money, including sums allocated to such free services, was sent to local authorities to support free travel for pupils in full time post-16 education.
“There are two barriers that need to be overcome to achieve this. Firstly, the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008 introduced by Ieuan Wyn Jones, then Plaid Cymru Minister for Economy and Transport, needs amending so that the provision of travel arrangements for learners in post-16 education becomes mandatory. In conjunction with this, the Welsh Governments needs to commit to providing extra finance to every local authority across Wales so that they can meet the expense such a reasonable change to the Measure will cause.
“Last year, my Welsh Conservative colleagues and I were pleased to announce our plans to provide all 16-24 year olds with free bus travel, if we were to form the Welsh Government. Whilst I hope to see this exciting offer to young people come to fruition following the 2021 election, in the meantime, I have called on the First Minister to consider amending the problematic Measure and help local authorities finance transport for learners in post-16 education”.
Written Assembly Question to Carwyn Jones AM, First Minister:
Will the First Minister state whether the Welsh Government would amend the Learner Travel (Wales) Measure 2008 so that provision of travel arrangements for learners in post-16 education becomes mandatory, and explain whether funding can be made available to help local authorities struggling to meet the cost of this service?