I am writing to say I despair about some of the ways our council is being run.
Consultation on post-16 transport has been necessary for some time, but for some reason, best known to the lead group on the council, it has not been brought to the children’s services scrutiny group until now (Thursday, May 29), which allows little time for further discussion. From north to south and east to west, our county is an extensive one and, in order to source courses to meet their career needs, many of our young people have got to travel long distances.
There are many families in north Northumberland on relatively low earnings but not qualifying for any aid from the state.
Bearing in mind that living costs in general are higher in the rural areas, putting an education transport cost on top of other costs is deplorable.
Every young person in our county, as far as possible, is entitled to equal educational opportunity and having to pay a proportion of their transport does nothing to move towards this goal. Our aim in the county should be working towards providing a full spread of courses over the county so that travelling time can be lessened for all. Until this happens, we should accept that we have a duty to meet the transport costs necessary for a young person to source the necessary course of their choice.
I put all these arguments to children’s scrutiny and was heartened when the committee voted in favour of postponing charges until work had been done to create a more level educational playing field for all our young people across Northumberland.
At the beginning of this message, I used the word despair. Allow me to explain. I am afraid I have to question the role and value of our children’s scrutiny committee.
The committee is made up of people with an interest in the education of our young people and spends many hours deliberating on all educational matters and how best to deal with limited funds. We spent upwards of two hours discussing post-16 transport before reaching a majority decision to continue to subsidise transport until equal educational opportunity was available throughout the county.
There was no time for this recommendation to be debated by full council, which is what should have happened, but the decision to end free post-16 transport was made by the policy board, who I suspect have not amassed the same educational expertise as have the children’s scrutiny group.
What is the point of a scrutiny group if its recommendations count for nothing?
Coun Anthony Murray,