I wanted to update Ramsbottom residents regarding a meeting of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee of Bury Council, that “called in” a decision of the Bury Council Cabinet to end Home to School Transport for children attending faith schools.
The decision means that many children attending St Joseph’s RC Primary, St Andrew’s CofE Primary and Emmanuel Holcombe CofE Primary will no longer have free transport to school if they choose a faith High School – such as Canon Slade, Bury Church of England or St Gabriels.
In addition, ten elected Councillors were present and one independent member of the Committee to question the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, Councillor Nick Parnell.
It was a heated meeting, with many passionate speeches by parents. Many told the Committee that they had chosen “Faith” High Schools for their children on the basis of faith – whether Catholic, Church of England, Methodist, Jewish and would now have to pay thousands of pounds to purchase bus passes for their children. Many were on low incomes and struggling in these difficult financial times to make ends meet.
There was much criticism of the consultation that took place by the Council. 81% of the 1,072 respondents were against the decision yet the decision to scrap free school transport went ahead. The Headteachers spoke of their requests to meet with the Council Leader and the Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, but meetings were cancelled – despite offers by the schools to help subsidise the school transport offered.
At the conclusion of the meeting, the 11 members of the committee were asked to vote.
5 members – 3 Conservative Councillors (including myself), 1 Lib Dem Councillor and 1 Independent member voted to refer the matter for full discussion and consideration by the Full Council of all 51 elected Councillors with a view to overturning the decision.
However, the 6 Labour Councillors (including Ramsbottom Councillor, Luise Fitzwalter) voted en bloc to confirm the decision to scrap Home to School Transport without offering comment – much to the outrage of those present. The decision cannot now be revisited for a 6 month period.
Parents, Governors and Teachers committed themselves to liaising with the Diocese of Salford with regard to considering a Judicial Review of the decision.
Please feel free to contact me for any additional details.