Suffolk Cabinet approval of school transport consultation blocked by opposition

Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich
Suffolk County Council's headquarters at Endeavour House, Ipswich

Yesterday’s decision by Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet to go ahead with a free school transport consultation has been ‘called in’ by opposition councillors.

The plan to start consultation on October 2 will now have to be put on hold until the county’s Scrutiny Committee on September 28.

Councillors from the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group have successfully applied to call-in. It was proposed by Penny Otton (Liberal Democrat for Thedwastre South) and seconded by Councillor Andrew Stringer (Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent Group, and Green Councillor for Upper Gipping). Councillors Robert Lindsay, Caroline Page and Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw supported the call-in application.

Councillor Penny Otton, whose division of Thedwastre West includes many of the villages within Thurston Community College’s Transport Priority Area, has been a vocal critic of the proposed changes. She said: “It is clear that the proposed changes will divide rural communities, create financial difficulties for a vast number of families, and disrupt the education of hundreds of children. To make matters worse,

“Suffolk County Council is clearly reneging on a promise made to Thurston Community College during the Schools Organisation Review, that it would continue providing free school transport for all pupils in the school’s catchment area.”

The call-in application cited a number of issues with the report which informed Cabinet’s decision. It criticised the lack of a full impact assessment, the expected impact on Educational attainment, increased car use in rural areas and the congestion that would accompany this;

The councillors also argued that the pre-consultation period was ‘entirely inadequate’.

Cllr Stringer said: “We are deeply concerned by the lack of accurate information within the supporting documentation and the omission of a comprehensive impact assessment. Before Suffolk County Council can bring this matter to a public consultation, they need to spell out the full implications to the communities that will be affected.”