Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/471/2002
Save our school buses
BRIDGEND COUNCIL in south Wales are planning yet again to try and cut free transport to primary and secondary schools.
Councillors want to abolish free transport completely for students aged 16 and over. They are demanding younger secondary school students prove they live over three miles away to travel for free.
In the case of some schools, including the new secondary school planned for Maesteg, this will mean that almost no-one will qualify for free school transport.
Incredibly, the council says that the real reasons it is making these cuts are environmental and health-related. They argue that fewer buses on the road and more kids walking to school would reduce carbon dioxide emissions and help combat childhood obesity. But expecting children to spend over an hour walking three miles to school first thing in the morning and an hour walking three miles back at the end of the day is ludicrous, particularly during the winter months.
There will inevitably be an increase in the number of parents driving their kids to school, which will increase, rather than reduce, the effect on the environment.
The council plans to start charging pupils to travel on the school buses if they don't qualify under the new rules. Current plans expect parents to pay £6 a week, hitting the less well-off hard.
It's pretty clear that the council's real motive is financial. The Wales Assembly is forcing the council to "find savings" - this means "make cuts" - of £5 million.
Despite council claims that they'll spend these "savings" on schools, the schools budget for the next two years is also facing cuts. Meanwhile the new chief executive enjoys an annual salary of £125,000, and the council regularly pays consultants fees of £30,000 to make decisions for them.
The fairest, most efficient way of getting kids to schools is on a free bus service which is fully paid-for by central government funds.
By backing these cuts, the Lib Dems and Conservatives who lead Bridgend council are showing that they're no different from both the previous Labour council and the current Labour-led Assembly. The Socialist Party believes that councillors and Assembly members should oppose these cuts and campaign to defend and improve our public services, not wring their hands while undermining them.
We will be lobbying the council on 25 January.
In The Socialist 25 January 2007:
War and terrorism
Socialist Party news and analysis
Workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party Marxist analysis
International socialist news and analysis