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School transport consultation launches today

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich

A public consultation has been launched today into the controversial plans to transform school transport services in Suffolk.

Suffolk County Council are encouraging people to voice their opinions through an online survey and several workshops during the consultation period which begins tomorrow and will run until February 28.

The consultation is part of the council’s plans to save money, after it was revealed that £21 million of tax payers’ money is spent getting children to and from school every year.

The current transport scheme sees around 2400 pupils receiving free or subsidised transport that the council is not legally required to provide. Around 2400 children also receive transport to schools further away than the council is legally required to provide.

People taking part in the consultation are asked to consider three options: to only offer the services required by law, to allow those with free transport now to keep it but not offer it to new starters, or to do nothing but cut costs elsewhere.

Cllr Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “Today we’re making a very clear and genuine pledge to listen. A considerable amount of work has been done to consider very carefully and thoroughly the feedback and issues that have been raised to date.

“But this is only the beginning and I’m calling for unity. I’m saying ‘let’s use this consultation to look at all the issues, discuss them and find sensible solutions together. This is a very serious and challenging issue to tackle, which we must in order to be able to afford to run the service in the future.

“I am confident that we are ready to start a public consultation. This is a huge challenge that Suffolk is facing, and I want all Suffolk residents to have the opportunity to help shape a solution that is right for Suffolk.”

But figures released by the council show that Thurston Community College, which is set to be hit hardest by the plans, would lose 812 pupils - over half of its current number - while Mildenhall College Academy would lose 115.

Numbers at Stowupland High School and King Edwards would also suffer with figures showing losses of 20 and 23 respectively.

But some schools would also make gains. According to council figures, St Benedict’s Catholic School would gain 31 pupils, Stowmarket High School would gain 132, IES Breckland would gain 111 and Sybil Andrews Academy would gain 114.

Ixworth Free School would gain 285 pupils, which would more than double its current number.

From today, people can have their say by filling out the online consultation survey which can also be downloaded on the website and returned as a hard copy to Suffolk County Council – school and post-16 travel consultation, Endeavour House,8 Russell Road, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 2BX.

Workshops will also be held at Lakenheath Pavillion from 7pm until 8.30pm on Tuesday, January 23 and at West Suffolk House in Bury St Edmunds between 2pm and 7.30pm on Friday, January 26.

There will also be a Have Your Say event where people can offer alternative options to a panel on January 30 from 7pm until 10pm at West Suffolk House.

To book your place at any of the above events and for full details, visit www.suffolk.gov.uk/schooltravel or call 0345 603 1842.

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