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Fears over bus u-turn

PUBLISHED: 08:51 18 November 2009 | UPDATED: 15:40 03 July 2010

Fears were last night expressed about other services that may be axed after a County Hall u-turn on a planned cut to subsidies for college bus passes.

Leading Norfolk county councillors welcomed the decision to maintain the annual subsidy at current levels.

Fears were last night expressed about other services that may be axed after a County Hall u-turn on a planned cut to subsidies for college bus passes.

Leading Norfolk county councillors welcomed the decision to maintain the annual subsidy at current levels.

But, with £10.5m of cuts needed from the children's services department in 2010/11, they asked where the £500,000 of potential savings from the proposed subsidy cut would now be found.

They also raised concerns about a raft of other possible savings, including cuts to the subsidy to schools that use Holt and Wells study centres.

The council planned to halve the annual post-16 transport subsidy - which would have led to a fare hike from £334 to £501 per student from next September.

But on Monday, Shelagh Hutson, cabinet member for children's services, announced the decision to maintain the annual subsidy at current levels. She said she had considered the possible impact on the take-up of post-16 education.

Mervyn Scutter, deputy leader of the Liberal Democrat group at County Hall, said: “It is good news that post-16 transport is to be left alone, but what is taking its place to be cut instead? Our hope is that it will be something less damaging than cuts to post-16 transport would have been.

“There is still a worry as well about the other cuts being proposed and what effect they will have. I am going out to the Holt and Wells study centres to see what impact the removal of their subsidy would have on them, because the work they do is so important.”

Labour group leader George Nobbs said: “We are very pleased the transport cuts have been dropped and pleased with the speed it has been done, but the question has to be asked, if the council are prepared to turn around and change their mind so quickly, how much thought was put into it.

“They could have anticipated what the response to these cuts might have been. It seems the cuts had not been thought through, and there is the worry about what cuts may be next.”

Other proposed children's services cuts include cutting the subsidy from 25pc to 15pc for community groups that hire school premises for events - saving £71,000 per year.

Officers have also put forward options including reducing the subsidy to schools that use Holt and Wells study centres - saving £250,000. They want to reduce the number of services provided by voluntary organisations, saving £1m, increase by 40 the number of council-employed foster carers, saving £1.5m, and cut back on using taxis for social care trips, including parents making supervised visits to estranged children and youngsters in care making trips, saving £1m.

Shelagh Hutson, cabinet member for children's services, said: “Officers have worked extremely hard in shaping the budget proposals for next year but I have now asked them to look elsewhere in the budget for savings. This work is currently underway and will focus on areas that have the least possible impact on Norfolk's most vulnerable children and young people. This will be a very challenging task but is one on which we must deliver.”

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