A CONSULTATION on changes to free school transport changes in Rhondda Cynon Taf which could affect as many as 2,700 children is being extended.
This three-week extension is an addition to the previous six-week consultation which ran from November 27 to January 8 and will saw the consultation reopen on Thursday, January 18, and remain open until Thursday, February 8.
The proposal is being considered due to the significant financial pressures faced by the council with a confirmed £36m budget gap for the next financial year.
Currently, the council provides free school transport to all pupils who live 1.5 miles away from their primary school and two miles from their secondary school which it said is above the statutory legal requirement set out by Welsh Government.
If the service change is approved, the council will provide free school transport to all pupils who live two miles or more away from their primary school and three miles or more away from their secondary school with as many as 2,700 pupils being affected by the change, according to a council officer.
The council said this would put its transport policy in line with Welsh Government’s statutory distance eligibility criteria and statutory walking distance policy, which 18 of the 22 councils in Wales currently adopt.
Under the proposal, allowing a pupil to select their nearest suitable school in accordance with choice of English or Welsh-medium language or preferred religious denomination would continue, as would providing pre-compulsory school age transport and post-16 transport. The discretionary elements of Additional Learning Needs (ALN) transport would not change, the council said.
The council said it recognises the significance of the proposal for pupils who use and will use home to school transport now or in the future, and that the extended consultation provides a further opportunity for those potentially impacted to take part in the consultation.
There will be further in-person drop-in events where officers will be on hand to answer any questions on the proposal and encourage people to take part in the online survey. These will be at:
- Hawthorn Leisure Centre, Hawthorn on January 29 from 4pm-7pm
- Sobell Leisure Centre, Aberdare on January 30 from 12pm-2pm, and4pm-7pm
- Rhondda Fach Leisure Centre, Tylorstown on January 31 from 4pm-7pm
The council said it delivers the largest operation of its kind in Wales in a “generous provision” where 9,000 pupils receive free transport on a discretionary basis – beyond the statutory level set out in the Welsh Government’s learner travel measure.
The council added that over the last eight years the council’s home to school transport costs have increased from £8m in 2015 to more than £15m for the 2023/24 financial