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School bus fares unfair on some families

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  • by John Turner
 

Parents and politicians have reacted with concern at the possibility of children having to pay to travel on the school bus.

The suggestion is just one of the proposals in a government consultation document seeking views on how the Department of Infrastructure can save £5 million from its budget.

NUT branch secretary Karl Flint said the proposal was ‘punitive and discriminatory’. Andrew Shipley of the ATL union said a charge would detrimentally affect a minority of families, particularly those with several children.

Laxey Village Commissioners’ chairman Andrew Moore pointed out school buses had only been free of charge for a relatively short period of time. The free service was introduced in 2000.

‘When I was a child it was free because I lived over three miles from school and there was a financial qualification as well,’ he said.

He said the major issue was cost and whether it was affordable, as walking was not a viable option for children in Laxey, who travel to either Douglas or Ramsey.

‘If it is cost prohibitive for some parents then there should be some kind of means-tested support. I think the public can appreciate costs have to be saved but I would not want to see an increase in traffic as a result.’

Mr Moore said the proposals were a drop in the ocean in the context of the £5 million needing to be saved and suggested the government was taking the soft option by hitting school children and old people, who may face restrictions on the free bus passes as part of the same proposals.

‘It’s £5 per week per child and I think people would come on board if the government were more responsible themselves.’

Maughold Commissioners’ clerk Martin Royle said the matter had not yet been discussed but he thought commissioners would be concerned at the potential cost and implications on congestion if it encouraged more people to drive.

As a parent who may have three children all at Ramsey Grammar School in a year’s time, he added: ‘It’s potentially £60 a month out of our household budget so from a personal point of view I would not be happy about it.’

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