Families in rural Yorkshire could be asked to pay more for post-16 home-to-school transport as council bosses aim to plug funding gaps.
North Yorkshire County Council will consider four options tomorrow, including one of raising the cost of journeys from £490 to £650 before the next school year.
The authority said it spends £24.1m on home-to-school transport – more than any other county in England and at an overspend of nearly £2.5m – and up to £2.8 million is put towards the post-16 provision, with the council currently receiving about one sixth of that in contribution fees.
It spends so much on such transport because of the “sparse nature of some communities” in North Yorkshire and the long distances some students travel to school or college.
The current fee of £490 by families towards post-16 home-to-school transport has not been raised for two years, and at that point is was a “marginal” increase of £10 – the majority of County Councils charge around £600 to £700.
Councils are required to review home-to-school transport charges every May.
North Yorkshire’s Children and Young People’s Service Executive will therefore decide after 12.45pm whether or not to raise the fee, currently “among the lowest in the country”, to bring it more in line with charges by other councils. Low-income families will continue to get a 50 per cent discount.
The first option is to increase the contribution to the national bus average of £5 per day.
Based on post-16 students attending three days a week for up to 38 weeks this would raise the rate to £570 a year. The other three options are to increase the fee to £600 per annum, raise it to the average county council fee of £650 per annum or not to increase to the contribution rate at all.
Coun Patrick Mulligan, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Education and Skills, said: “Post-16 transport will continue to be heavily subsidised and low income families will continue to receive a 50 per cent discount.
“The current cost per year to the council per student is from £900 for a place on a bus, to £30,000 for specialist provision with passenger assistance.
“What North Yorkshire charges is a fraction of that. We understand cost pressures on families which is why we have held the travel fee for post-16 students for a number of years, and we continue to support the provision of post-16 education throughout the county and work with our schools and communities to ensure high quality teaching and learning and training.
“But the competing demands on our overall budget are very great and we must consider all the options very carefully.”
The agreed option will be implemented from June 1, for the start of the 2019/2020 academic year.