MPs’ concern over post-16 transport changes

Political News from the Fenland Citizen, fenlandcitizen.co.uk, @FenlandCit on Twitter
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Norfolk Members of Parliament today (Friday) expressed their concern at the proposed changes to post 16 school transport.

In a letter to the Leader of Norfolk County Council, George Nobbs, all nine Norfolk MPs urged the Leader of NCC to look at other ways to achieve savings rather than increasing the cost of transport passes. Norfolk County Council is currently conducting a consultation into the proposed changes. The consultation closes on the 12 December 2013.

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said: “Norfolk County Council has said that savings need to be made in order to spend money on safeguarding and school improvements. I fully support the need to ensure safeguarding is adequately funded however I do not believe reducing the subsidy for school transport is the way to achieve savings. A more school led approach to improvements has been shown to work – just look at the successful academy chains. Department for Education grants of anything from £25000 to £120000 to enable schools to work together, share administrative roles and sponsor other schools are available. Councils across the country have shown that by sharing back office resources efficiencies can be made. I know NCC is exploring this option with Suffolk County Council and I would encourage the council to move ahead with this. All Norfolk MPs are concerned by this proposal and in a rural county like Norfolk, transport needs to be affordable for all students.”

George Freeman MP said: “We owe it to the children of Norfolk to tackle the debt legacy they have inherited by cutting not frontline school transport budgets but the backroom costs - admin, PR, HR, Finance, and senior management salaries - of Norfolk’s 8 councils”.

Richard Bacon MP said: “Schools are much better at eking out any available money than anyone else. Hitting at school transport in order to spend money from the centre on school improvements is not the answer. The standard expectation used to be that someone will always find more money, but now there isn’t any more. The patience of taxpayers has been tested to destruction and public officials everywhere have to get much better at using the resources they already have. There has been some very good progress with some local councils, which just shows what is possible, but there is much more to do. ‘’

Chloe Smith MP said: “Students in Norwich have come to me with their concerns about the enormous hike proposed for student transport prices. I share their concerns because students need to be able to afford upfront to learn. As leader of Norwich For Jobs, I know that the learning students do now can affect their ability to earn later. I believe there are some other options which the county council could take in order to live within its means. It would be irresponsible to duck the need for less spending overall at County Hall, however, because the money simply is not there. More spending, more borrowing and more debt do young people least good of all as the debt is landed on them – so responsible, fair and smart thinking is needed.”

Keith Simpson MP said: “I think NCC should think again about cutting the subsidy to school transport which will have a disproportionate impact on rural constituencies like Broadland. If they intend going ahead then I suggest they meet teachers and parents from my constituency and explain their reasons and how they have failed to make further efficiency savings.”

Brandon Lewis said: “Savings can be made but not by increasing travel costs for students. Across government, departments are making efficiency savings and I believe NCC can achieve the same results; DCLG is already reduced in size that new smaller premises are now required. Other councils have joined together and have achieved excellent results whilst at the same time ensuring front line services are maintained.”

Norman Lamb MP said: “The proposed cut will have a disproportionate effect on poorer families in rural areas, and make it harder for 16-19 year olds to access education. There are better ways to cut costs, by sharing services and reducing back-office functions: I am determined to work with local councillors to find ways to improve services and deliver the savings that are needed.”