Chester's Tory MP Stephen Mosley has sided with Labour in opposing his own Conservative council’s plans to abolish free transport for children with special needs.
Cheshire West and Chester Council has consulted over plans to abolish free school transport for various groups, including some pupils with special needs or medical needs.
The move would affect Carl and Ruth Rogers, from Helsby, after their daughter Rhiannon, with Down’s Syndrome, turns 16 next year when she would no longer be able to travel by free mini-bus to Dee Banks Special School in Chester.
Mr Mosley, in common with the Labour opposition, is against the plans and has written to council chief executive Steve Robinson asking the authority to “think again”.
He wrote: “Two of the council’s proposed changes to the funding of home to school transport do not, in my opinion, meet the council’s stated objective of putting West Cheshire’s residents first. Rather, proposals three and six put children with Special Education Needs (SEN) in an unreasonably disadvantaged position by removing the non-statutory school transport provision from them on its current free-of-charge basis.
“For many SEN children, local schools are not equipped to match their needs; they are left with little choice but to travel significant distances in order to attend a suitable school. Coping with this is a challenge uniquely faced by parents of children with special educational needs and the council must support them in overcoming the barriers to an effective education.”
Labour claims affected families would be expected to find an extra £100 per month to get their children to school.
Cllr David Armstrong, Labour’s spokesperson for Children and Young People said: “Sadly, this would appear to be the price families are being made to pay as a result of draconian cuts made by the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem Government. To charge 16-19 year old young people with special needs, as well as a small group of youngsters with medical conditions, is particularly pernicious. This is surely a cut too far.”
Councillor Mark Stocks, executive member for Children and Families, said: “Several issues have emerged in a number of areas and these will now be looked at by our officers, and the proposed changes will be reviewed in the light of the responses.”
The consultation on school transport has now closed. However, it is part of the budget proposals being discussed at full council in Winsford on Monday March 3. A consultation on the budget itself is currently under way. For more details, visit: www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk