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Opinion : Is school transport costing too much in Buckinghamshire?

| October 24, 2018

My good self was shocked to read the article that recently appeared in the news section of this site entitled ‘Consultation planned on revisions to Buckinghamshire County Council’s home to school transport arrangements‘.

According to the news item, a total of £15.1m is spent each year taking more than 9,000 Buckinghamshire children to and from school.

£12.7m of the money is spent on statutory provision for children eligible for travel assistance, however the remaining £2.4m is spent on transport where the County Council has applied discretion and agreed to support young people.

Yours truly was dumbfounded to think that £15.1m is spent each year transporting children to school and £2.4m of that goes towards transport that is not statutory in nature.

Personally my good self would like to see the consultation go further. Isn’t it about time a breakdown was publicly published of where the £15.1m goes?

For many years my good self has heard stories of taxi, private hire and minibus firms who make a nice profit from taking children to and from school. Yours truly has even heard tales of school transport contracts that are so highly paid that a driver can earn his entire income from just one school transport contract that requires just a couple of hours work a day.

After reading the news article on the consultation and seeing the figures of money involved my good self is beginning to believe some of those stories that yours truly has heard over the years.

Yes, let’s see a full breakdown of the figures published showing how much money was paid to each external transport provider, giving the number of journeys they are contracted to undertake, the number of children collected on each journey and the total length, in miles and time, of each journey.

Travel around certain roads in Castlefield and you will see a plethora of ‘school buses’ parked beside the road during the day and through the night. Indeed it’s amazing how many minibuses licensed as private hire vehicles and converted vans being driven on Vehicle Operator Discs are involved in the ‘school transport’ scene.

Some of these vehicles appear to be no more than rust buckets with rust streaking from window seals and rust perforation holes in the bodywork.

Quite honestly my good self wouldn’t travel in any of these decidedly dodgy looking contraptions let alone allow a child to travel in one.

In my opinion school buses should be maintained to the highest standard and any operator given a slice of the £15.1m should be operating to the highest possible standards.

The vehicles should also be kept in proper garages and storage yards when not in use rather than being left by the road causing a nuisance to other motorists, pedestrians and local residents.

There should also be a hotline that children, parents and residents can ring to report dodgy school buses that turn up to take them to school.

What do you think?

My blogs are published every Tuesday and Friday evening around 8.00pm here on the WycombeToday.com website.

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