WORRIED Clydesdale parents added their voices to a clamour against cuts in free school transport at a heated meeting at council headquarters last Wednesday.
They were joined by concerned mums and dads from throughout South Lanarkshire to demonstrate at a ‘crunch’ meeting at council headquarters in Hamilton.
However, their arguments that their children’s safety would be threatened by the cut failed to sway the ruling Labour Group which approved going ahead next April with expanding the distance children travelling from home to secondary school would qualify for free transport from two to three miles.
The opposition SNP Group voted against the measure but were accused by Labour of playing politics with the issue; the council claims it desperately needs to make the £650,000 saving on school transport if other services, like those to the elderly, are to survive.
There was, however, a council concession with children qualifying for free school meals retaining their free transport too.
Said the Clydesdale protest organiser, Kirkfieldbank mum Julia Marrs: “I am disappointed by the cavalier attitude of the council in the face of massive public opposition to the school bus cuts. Whilst I’m pleased the poorest children will be able to access free school transport - although in a form that will only increase their stigma - by pressing ahead with the three mile rule, the current administration still risks children’s safety across the region and has ignored the concerns of hard-pressed families.
“The council continue to insist that dangerous walking routes are safe and follow guidelines which would potentially allow these ‘safe’ routes to not even have a pavement nor street lighting!”
She stated that parents would continue to battle the decision bright up to implementatiion in April.
After the meeting the council’s Executive Director of Education Resources, Jim Gilhooly said: “Today’s decision has not been taken lightly. Significant savings have to be made and the council can no longer afford to provide secondary school mainstream transport at a level that is more generous than required under the law.
“By providing free secondary school transport after three miles we are in line with 20 other local authorities who have already adopted this statutory limit. Importantly, today’s decision also means that all secondary school pupils entitled to free school meals who live more than two miles from their school can access free school transport.”
He added that delaying the cut until April would give parents chance to “change the way they fulfil their responsibility to get their children to and from school.”