County leaders discuss post-16 transport plans

School transport busses parked outside the Duchess's High School in Alnwick.
School transport busses parked outside the Duchess's High School in Alnwick.

Councillors and senior staff from Northumberland County Council have discussed proposals around post-16 transport, as part of the wider budget-setting process.

The potential changes were announced as part of the budget consultation in December, but more detailed discussions on the way forward are now in progress and no formal plans are yet in place.

Any definitive changes to the current system will be subject to another period of public consultation beginning, so that everyone with an interest in this subject gets the chance to have their say.

Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said: “It’s important to say that no final decisions have been made and that we’re still looking at a range of options for post-16 transport in the county.

“Unlike most councils, Northumberland County Council currently pays to transport children to the nearest establishment that does the course they want, regardless of distance, and many children are transported out of the county to do this. We also provide free travel to the nearest denominational school where evidence of faith is provided.

“Currently 3,600 students receive free travel which is an increase of more than 300 per cent in student numbers in the last five years. We now provide free travel for 51 per cent of post-16 students and the cost of this has risen to £3.3million in 2013/14.”

The proposals are part of the council’s medium-term financial plan to save £130million between 2014 and 2018.