County vows to defend legal challenge to school transport policy

Powys County Council will defend any legal challenge by parents to its policy over school transport, which has already led to the resignation of a cabinet member.

The council decided in 2011 to give three years’ notice that it would not allow the use of designated school funding to pay for home to school to school transport.

There had been accusations that schools had used the money in this way to poach pupils from each other and the Wales Audit Office had questioned the practice.

Leader Barry Thomas said Llanfyllin High School had continued to use the money for transport and an independent review into the situation was due to report later this month [June].

Thomas said more than £100,000 a year that should have been used for teaching and learning has been diverted towards transport costs.

“Claims that using delegated school funding to subsidise transport benefitted Powys are disingenuous,” he said.

“The pupils do not bring extra money into Wales and therefore the Powys council taxpayers are subsidising non-Powys pupils."

He added that the use of delegated funds was not only a breach of the finance policy but appeared to be outside the council’s financial and procurement regulations.

Parents groups have threatened a legal challenge, with their solicitor Richard Lloydtelling the BBC: "We took specialist barrister advice in this area of law, it was his opinion there are merits in mounting a legal challenge to the decision that Powys County Council didn't take the right course of action in implementing their new transport policy back in 2011.”

The dispute over the schools’ action led in March to the resignation of Darren Mayor, cabinet member for property, buildings and housing. He was a member of Llanfyllin High School’s governing body,

Thomas said at the time: “As a member of a school’s governing body that used school funding to subsidise home to school transport in clear breach of a council policy, I understand and respect his decision [to resign]. It is the honourable and correct course of action and demonstrates his integrity.”

Mark Smulian

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Team @ AberdareOnline

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