Consultation exercises are now underway for two key service proposals

Consultation exercises are now underway for two key service proposals

Residents can now engage with the separate proposals relating to Pre-School-Day Childcare and Home-to-School Transport – which are being considered due to the significant financial pressures faced by the Council.

Cabinet recently discussed both options in response to a predicted £35m budget gap for next year, and an estimated funding shortfall of £85.4m up to 2026/27.

The exact position faced by the Council next year will be determined by the level of funding provided by the taxpayer through UK Government to the Welsh Government, which will dictate December’s provisional Local Government Settlement.

Having been agreed by Cabinet Members on November 20, the Council will hold an extensive consultation over the next six weeks – providing an opportunity for residents to find out more and engage with the proposals.

Both consultations for Pre School-Day Childcare and Home to School Transport got underway on Monday, November 27, and will remain open until Monday, January 8 (2024). Separate consultation homepages have been created on the Council’s website, available on the links below.

Pre-School Day Childcare

Home to School Transport

Residents can now use these webpages to access further details about what is being proposed, as well as respective online surveys to have their say on each option. The pages also include important details about how residents can take part off-line, via a (Freepost) postal address and a phone number.

In addition, there will be three public meetings for face-to-face events – where people can drop-in, ask questions, and provide their views on the proposals. Further details will be communicated once the arrangements are finalised.

Alongside the public element of the consultations, Officers will also undertake thorough engagement with stakeholders over the next six weeks – including working with our schools to receive their feedback on what is proposed.

A short summary of the proposals for both Pre School-Day Childcare and Home to School Transport has been included at the bottom of this update.

A spokesperson for Rhondda Cynon Taf Council, said: “Cabinet has agreed for the Council to carry out a consultation for the Pre School-Day Childcare and Home to School Transport proposals, which were reluctantly brought forward by officers in response to the harsh reality of our estimated £85.4m budget gap over the next three years. Elected Members have a responsibility to ensure a balanced budget is set, and under the huge funding pressures being experienced right across the UK public sector, we have no option but to reconsider how we provide some services.

“The proposal relating to Pre School-Day Childcare will have no effect on access to breakfast clubs for all pupils in Nursery to Year 6. Instead, it will formalise a period of childcare offered by some primary and special schools into a 30-minute session before breakfast club – introducing a £1 daily charge for this session only. Breakfast club would then follow 30 minutes before the school day, remaining free and universally available. Four other Councils in Wales charge for a similar service, and several more are considering it.

“Our Home to School Transport service costs have hugely increased in recent years, almost doubling since 2015.

Our current provision goes far beyond that of all other councils in Wales, and the proposal is to bring our policy in line with the Learner Travel Measure for mainstream primary and secondary pupils – which 18 of the 22 Welsh councils already adopt. Beyond this, we would offer free discretionary travel to 6,000 learners, remaining beyond the statutory level for Welsh, Special, Faith and Post-16 students. Also, our bespoke service for ALN learners would be continued, while free transport will not be revoked in instances where there is no safe walking route to school.

“Following Cabinet’s decision last week, the respective consultations for Pre School-Day Childcare and Home to School Transport have started – and will remain open until January 8, 2024.

I urge residents to read through what’s proposed and provide us with their feedback – which will be thoroughly considered before our final decision-making at a future Cabinet meeting.”

Pre School-Day Childcare proposals

This concerns a discretionary period of childcare offered by some primary and special schools, typically between 8am-8.30am, before they provide a free breakfast to pupils. The proposal would formalise the childcare element only and introduce a £1 fee per day (£60 per term). All income that is generated would be reinvested into Council funding for Schools, to offset cost pressures.

The proposal would in no way affect pupils’ access to breakfast club and a healthy breakfast, which would remain free of charge and available to all pupils from Nursery to Year 6 each day. This would continue to be offered in the 30-minute period before school starts, typically between 8.30am-9am.

Children who have been assessed as eligible for Free School Meals would be exempt from the charge, and the consultation is seeking views in relation to other possible concessions – such as families with more than one child.

Home to School Transport proposals

The Council delivers the largest operation of its kind in Wales in a generous provision where 9,000 learners receive free transport on a discretionary basis – beyond the statutory level in Welsh Government’s Learner Travel Measure. However, in light of huge increases in the cost of running the service, Cabinet will consider a proposal to amend the Council’s policy to save £2.5m a year.

The preferred option would bring the provision for mainstream primary, secondary and college pupils in line with the statutory distance requirements of the Learner Travel Measure.

Primary pupils who live two miles or further from their nearest suitable school would continue to receive free transport (the current provision is set at 1.5 miles).

Mainstream secondary and college pupils who live three miles or further from their nearest suitable school would continue to receive free transport (the current provision is set at two miles).

The discretionary elements of allowing a learner to select their nearest suitable school in accordance with choice of English or Welsh Medium language, or preferred religious denomination, would continue. Providing pre-compulsory school age and post-16 transport would also continue, while the current policy for Additional Learning Needs transport would remain unaltered.

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