Parents' anger at plan to cut free school buses across Hull
ANGRY parents of children at Hull's top-performing secondary school believe a plan to cut free school transport is already a done deal.
More than 200 people attended a public meeting at St Mary's College in north Hull to find out more about the city council proposals.
The local authority insists it needs to radically rethink its transport provision in the face of public sector cuts and is considering axing all free transport that is not a legal requirement.
Five options were presented to parents during the meeting this week but there was no option to maintain the current provision.
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One dad said: "Where's the option that says we don't want any changes at all?"
Another father said: "This isn't a consultation at all.
"I think the council has already made its mind up."
Parents and teachers say the move will be damaging to education and will cause financial hardship to families already struggling.
They say it will also put pupils' safety at risk.
Parents with two or more children fear they will not be able to afford the bus travel.
At the meeting one mum said: "I don't know how I am going to pay for three more of my children to get there."
Concerns were also raised about how many children would end up congregating at Paragon Interchange, in the city centre, to change buses.
Others suggested the council looks more closely at in-house savings before cutting bus travel.
Catholic and other faith schools, along with same-sex schools, will be hardest hit because they have a much wider catchment area.
Kevin Duffy, director of schools for the Diocese of Middlesbrough, which covers Hull, expressed his concerns.
He said: "We acknowledge the difficulty the council is under but we are disappointed with the way the council is handling this.
"The current system is working so well. We need to know what the financial impact will be with these options.
"We know the lowest-income families will be protected but it is the squeezed middle we're concerned about."
But council officials have defended the proposals and insist no decision will be made until the consultation is complete.
The consultation period has been extended by a week to Friday, March 15.
City manager for learning and skills Vanessa Harvey-Samuel said: "The landscape is changing and the savings we could make are not insignificant – about £400,000.
"The reality is we have to look at savings everywhere but this is the consultation stage and we want everyone's views."
Sue Day, assistant head of service for access and inclusion, said: "Absolutely no decision has been made and this is an opportunity for everyone to help shape the future transport policy."
The meeting was organised by Ged Fitzpatrick, headteacher at St Mary's College, who is leading opposition to the plans.