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School transport subsidy scrapped to save £1.5m

The council is scrapping transport subsidies for children at faith schools to save £1.5m.

The council is scrapping transport subsidies for children at faith schools to save £1.5m.

Historically, Macclesfield students have been given additional assistance to attend denominational schools, even if is not their nearest school.

At its meeting at Westfields on Monday, the cabinet voted to discontinue the support at the end of the financial year, saving taxpayers about £230,000.

They also decided to halve the money spent on subsidies for students in post-16 education and instead instruct the schools and colleges to manage their own budgets. This will save taxpayers about £375,000 a year.

The decision was made at the cabinet meeting despite the scrutiny committee’s recommendation that savings could be found elsewhere by following other successful transport systems.

Coun Louise Brown, who wrote the minority report, said: "I am naturally disappointed that the recommendations of the minority report endorsed by the Scrutiny Committee have not been followed, to make efficiency savings rather than cuts.

"Even the majority report recommended that existing faith pupils and siblings should be supported."

She added that the council’s one-off payment for faith schools should at least have been calculated to cover the next school year.

Coun Hilda Gaddum, cabinet member for children and families, said: "This is about delivering equitable school transport policies across the borough that are fair to all children and fair to taxpayers.

"I believe that we made the only decision available to us – to prioritise services that are statutory and make changes to policies that are by no means fair and good value for taxpayers."

Council leader Wesley Fitzgerald said the council had no statutory obligation to provide transport to faith schools or post-16.

He said: "Why should parents who choose to send their children to faith schools be supported, when other parents do not receive the same support for sending their children to a school that specialises in, say, maths or music, outside of their immediate catchment area?

"This is an unfair subsidy and we must divert any available funds where they are desperately needed – supporting vulnerable adults and young people who need our support more than ever in these times of economic austerity."

Children from families on low incomes, or who live more than two miles from their nearest primary school or more than three miles from their nearest secondary school, will continue to be subsidised.

 

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