SETTLING huge child injury claims through the courts will cost the council more than any savings it will make through school bus cuts.
This claim was made as angry parents throughout Clydesdale gear up to take part in a demonstration next Wednesday in a last-ditch attempt to persuade councillors not to extend the distance children attending secondary schools qualify for free travel from two to three miles.
Parents feel that South Lanarkshire Council has not recognised special dangers facing youngsters walking on unlit and sometimes rugged rural roads.
A campaign against the changes has included a protest march on one of the allegedly hazardous routes - that from Kirkfieldbank to Lanark Grammar - and claims that the council is in danger of breaching the UN Convention on the rights of children.
Parents plan to mount a protest at council headquarters at County Buildings as a special executive meeting makes a final decision on the transport cuts.
This week the campaigners claim they have legal advice that the council would be liable for massive civil liability injury claims through the courts should any youngster be hurt walking to or from school on a route designated by the council as being safe.
Campaign leader Julia Marrs said: “Due to the state of some walking routes to schools - with loose paving slabs, inadequate fencing, and lighting which is not working - the council could leave itself open to negligence claims if school children had an accident on their designated ‘safe ‘walking route. Even repairing routes to a safe standard alone might actually cost the council more than putting on a school bus!”
South Lanarkshire Council’s Executive Director of Education Resources, Jim Gilhooly, said: “By seeking to move to providing free secondary school transport after three miles, we would be in line with 19 other local authorities who have already adopted this statutory limit. If the new three mile limit is approved, we will learn from their experiences.
“The council has significant savings to make, meaning that there are difficult decisions to take. As such, these proposals have not been made lightly.”
He added that the assessments of the safety of roads as walking routes to schools “are carried out in accordance with the West of Scotland Road Safety Forum guidance.”