Portsmouth council to consider serious review of home to school transport to save cash
A EXTENSIVE review of home to school transport for special needs children in Portsmouth could be undertaken in a bid to save cash.
Changing from taxis to buses, reviewing routes and looking at transport providers will all be considered as part of a money-saving effort by Portsmouth City Council.
As previously reported the council is expected to spend £372,000 more than budgeted by the end of March on getting students to school using taxis, minibuses and allocating bus passes.
And the number of special educational needs and disability (Send) pupils needing transport is expected to continue to rise.
During a meeting this week the council's education's boss, Councillor Suzy Horton, will decide whether to approve a reassessment of the home to school transport policy.
Cllr Horton explained how cuts to funding were a major problem. 'The government has to realise this is a really significant issue and to meet the objectives they need to give more money to local authorities or face a real crisis,' she said.
'I think this review could be a start of something that could be worked on over a number of years.
'We need a bit of a mindset change. Historically we have always gone straight to just using taxis. But we need to think are there other ways within the capabilities and safety of the children that we can explore - like buses.'
Students make about 209,000 journeys a year in Portsmouth using the service in certain cases including if it is deemed ‘unsafe’ for them to walk to school and for learners with special educational needs or disability.
City teacher and president of the National Education Union, Amanda Martin, welcomed a review but warned individual needs must be met. She said: 'Of course we don't want to be wasting public money on unnecessary costs because we are at a point where the local authority and education budget has been cut to the smallest it's ever been.
'It is a nightmare trying to fund the complex needs in the city because of this. So a review would be a good idea.
'However, we have to make sure cost-cutting doesn't impact on children’s wellbeing. Certainly for some children with autism getting a bus might be very difficult.'
A decision on the review will be made on Thursday.