Thousands of children could lose out on free transport provision following Rhondda Cynon Taf Council consultation
In a move that has sparked widespread concern among residents, Rhondda Cynon Taf council is facing criticism for its decision to cut essential public services while simultaneously increasing council tax. This comes in the wake of revelations that the council is sitting on a substantial £270 million in usable reserves, raising questions about the necessity of these cuts.
The latest blow to the community comes in the form of proposed changes to free school transport eligibility, potentially leaving around 2,700 pupils without access to this vital service. The council’s proposal seeks to alter eligible distances for mainstream primary, secondary, and college pupils, bringing them in line with statutory distance requirements. Primary pupils living two miles or further from their nearest suitable school and secondary/college pupils residing three miles or further would continue to receive free transport. This represents a reduction from the current distances of 1.5 miles and two miles, respectively.
Councillor Karen Morgan, leader of the Plaid Cymru group, voiced her concerns, stating that if the proposal goes ahead, it will inflict “significant levels of stress” on pupils and families. The families of approximately 2,750 pupils may be forced to find alternative means of transportation, such as public transport, which may be unavailable or unsuitable. Alternatively, families may be left with no option but to contribute to the congestion on roads and increase RCT’s carbon footprint by driving their children to school.
Morgan emphasized the potential impact on child poverty, the Welsh language, and the safety of routes to school. She warned of a possible rise in parents facing court action due to non-compliance with the proposed changes and expressed concerns about the negative effects on education and attainment.
These concerns are further amplified by revelations that Rhondda Cynon Taf council is currently facing a budget gap of £35 million next year and £85 million over the next three years, even though it holds £270 million in usable reserves. This incongruity raises serious questions about the necessity of the proposed cuts and the council’s prioritization of financial resources.
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