Push for new panel to examine home to school transport ‘debacle’

Downs View School was one of those affected by the problems with the new home to school transport contract
Downs View School was one of those affected by the problems with the new home to school transport contract

Problems with home to school transport for children with special educational needs should be looked into by councillors, according to Brighton and Hove Conservatives.

Councillors Mary Mears and Dee Simson plan to make the case at a meeting of Brighton and Hove City Council this week.

They are asking fellow councillors to debate a motion at the full council meeting on Thursday (October 24) that a cross-party member-led panel should look at the matter.

They want to know how consultants were appointed, how the current transport was contracted and what the impact has been on schools, families and young people.

Problems started at the beginning of the school year when dozens of children were left without transport and others were taken to school in unsuitable vehicles.

Of the 127 routes to school, the operators of 14 routes withdrew their services at or just before the start of term, affecting 62 children.

Teachers also had to bring children into the buildings – something which used to be done by drivers and escorts. The existing practice was stopped for insurance reasons.

Councillor Mears and Councillor Simson said that parents and school representatives had asked for a member-led scrutiny panel in response to the “debacle” of the new service.

They said: “There are concerns about child safety and welfare that require a full immediate inquiry.

“Questions around the appointment of consultants remain, including the impact on budgets and other costs / savings.

“Concerns exist regarding the implementation of the new service in respect to route planning and waiting times.

“Concerns exist regarding the impact on schools and the potential loss of teaching time and associated costs.”

They want the panel to consist of six councillors, with two from each party – Labour, Green and Conservative.

Councillors have been told that a review of what went wrong would be carried out by officials from another council.

But the two long-serving councillors want this put on hold until a scrutiny panel had taken a closer look.

The full council meeting is due to be held at Hove Town Hall next Thursday (October 24).

The meeting is scheduled to start at 4.30pm and should be open to the public.