Redbridge special needs pupils’ buses could face cuts

Cllr Elaine Norman

Cllr Elaine Norman - Credit: Vickie Flores

Funding cuts to school transport for children with special needs could “encourage young people to be independent”, a council cabinet member has said.

The service, which provides door-to-door transport to and from school, will come under scrutiny after a Redbridge Council committee voted in favour of “indicative cuts” over the next two years.

The special educational needs scheme could see funding reduced by 10 per cent – £320,000 – by 2017/18, after the children and young people services committee voted six to five in favour of the budget proposals on Thursday.

By 2018/19, the service’s budget could be cut by 12pc or £492,000.

Cabinet member for children and young people Cllr Elaine Norman said the plans were “simply indicative” and would be subject to a full review of the existing scheme and consultation with parents and young people who use the service.

The plans would see the introduction of designated pick-up locations for children who use the service.

Cllr Norman said most children affected would be adolescents and this would “encourage young people to be independent” by preparing them for adulthood.

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She said it would also result in shorter bus journeys for pupils.

She added the review will be conducted on a case-by-case basis and cater for individual needs where appropriate.

Personalised transport budgets would also be developed for children living on single routes or more remote areas of the borough.

The cuts will not affect young people’s financial support to travel to school, and are part of a £4million budget dedicated to the transport of children with special needs.

Opposition leader Cllr Paul Canal (Con, Bridge), who told the committee he had received emails from residents concerned about the plans, asked the committee to withdraw the item from the budget proposals.

Cllr Alan Weinberg (Con, Clayhall) told the committee he was most concerned, especially regarding the distance children would have to walk to pick-up points.

He put forward a motion to withdraw the item, saying he feared that approving the plan as part of the budget proposals now would tie the hands of the committee when changes go to a vote in 2017.

The plans propose for a consultation period to take place before November 2017, when cabinet will vote on the proposals.

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