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Activists angry as county extends debate on school bus charges
CAMPAIGNERS have reacted angrily after the county council extended a consultation into changing parents’ free transport-to-school entitlement.
Oxon School Bus Action Group (OSBAG) said the extension, from Friday until January 14, prolongs the uncertainty for parents.
By last Monday about 1,000 comments had been made as part of the consultation, which was launched last month.
It is the second time Oxfordshire County Council has tried to get the proposals off the ground, with the first consultation shelved earlier this year after the scheme was fiercely criticised.
Under the plans, which the council claims could save £2m, parents will be charged up to £584 a year if they do not send their children to the nearest school.
The council says longer consultation will give officers more time to look at replies and build up a comprehensive picture.
OSBAG co-ordinator Sue Moon said: “This merely prolongs the uncertainty for thousands of parents across the county who stand to be adversely affected by these proposals, not to mention the schools who would lose millions of pounds if they go ahead.
“The council cannot have been surprised by the level of response, or indeed the message.
“These deeply unpopular plans have already been rejected by the public once this year.”
OSBAG does not believe the plans would deliver savings and is taking legal advice.
Oxfordshire County Council Leader Ian Hudspeth said: “There has been huge interest in these proposals and we want to ensure we are giving people as much opportunity as possible to have their say.
“From a practical perspective, it gives our officers more time to go through the responses and present the cabinet with a comprehensive picture of public opinion.
“I have taken part as a panellist at nine public meetings on this issue and there has certainly been lively debate.
“I would now urge anyone who has not yet submitted their views to visit our website.”
The OSBAG statement added: “We say, ‘enough’. Councillor Hudspeth talks about the need to make ‘tough decisions’.
“At some point he and the cabinet will have to make the tough decision to reject this policy which is socially divisive, will irreparably damage education and deliver negligible savings.”
A final decision is due to be made at a special cabinet meeting at a date to be announced.
Visit http://oxfordshire.gov.uk/htspconsultation. To request a paper copy of the consultation documents call 01865 815175.
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