LGO raises concern over changes to school transport policy

The Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has warned that changes to councils’ transport policies are having a negative effect on children trying to get to school.

According to the Ombudsman it is receiving increasing complaints from parents and carers who need to find alternative ways to get their children to school when councils change their policies, citing 261 complaints for 2015-16 compared with just 160 in the previous year.

Local Government Ombudsman Michael King said: “When looking at school transport awards, councils must ensure decisions are made fairly, legally and transparently. Failing to do this can cause confusion, financial hardship and have a significant impact on some of the most vulnerable families, particularly those who have children with special educational needs.

“While I appreciate the financial strain councils are under, parents and carers can only have trust in their council’s decision making if they are kept properly informed throughout the process, and told clearly the reasons for any decisions made.”

Cllr Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, countered: "Local authorities take their responsibility to provide home-to-school transport for those in need very seriously, with councils continuously looking at innovative approaches to enable them to provide a coordinated and high quality service for children and their parents.

"Councils continue to face significant funding pressures, amid further cuts to funding by central government. Local authorities are working hard to ensure suitable travel arrangements are made for children who could not reasonably be expected to walk or would otherwise find it difficult to attend school because of distance, mobility, special educational needs or the routes they have to take. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult in the face of such sustained financial challenges."

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