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Friday 8 July 2011

Leader and Cabinet applauded over school transport decision


Spontaneous applause broke out when the Leader of Cheshire East Council announced a one-year postponement of any decision on the future of subsidised home-to-school transport for faith schools and post-16 pupils.

At today’s (Monday, July 4) Cabinet meeting, Councillor Hilda Gaddum proposed an option to: withdraw transport to faith primary and secondaries to new pupils from September 2012; withdraw post-16 transport for new pupils from September 2012; and increase the parental contribution for denominational transport by five per cent from £299 to £314 per year.

The proposal from the Cabinet member with responsibility for children and family services was seconded by Council Leader Councillor Wesley Fitzgerald.

But, after visiting councillors and members of the public spoke out against the plans, Councillor Fitzgerald announced “an unusual step” and adjourned the meeting for five minutes to consult with Councillor Gaddum and director of children and family services Lorraine Butcher.

On his return, Councillor Fitzgerald announced the postponement of part of the decision relating to the withdrawal of transport but said: “We will be implementing the five per cent charge on the subsidy. That will be effective from September 2011.

“This means that parents will contribute £314 from September, instead of the current £299. This reflects the current rate of five per cent inflation.

Councillor Hilda Gaddum withdrew her original proposal and the packed meeting broke out into spontaneous applause.

After the meeting Councillor Gaddum said: “This consultation, I know, has been challenging and difficult and I would like to thank all those who have taken the time to contribute.

“Throughout the consultation period, I have listened to and considered carefully all the concerns that have been raised.

“I would particularly like to thank those who took time to attend the Cabinet meeting today, at which, in response to the views expressed and the points raised, we agreed to pause for one year to consider a difficult task even further.

“I hope that the outcome of today’s meeting demonstrates clearly that we do listen to all views. I very much hope that the further work that will be undertaken will lead to a positive outcome.”

The proposals put before Cabinet followed unprecedented financial challenges facing councils – with rising demand for services and a squeeze on revenues.

Cheshire East Council needs to find savings of about £50m over the next few years. As a result, the Council has an obligation to its taxpayers to examine each area of discretionary activity to identify where any savings can be made.

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