Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland Labour MP, Tom Blenkinsop, today (5th July 2016) welcomed the news that a long running controversy on who funded school transport for students at Catholic schools in Redcar and Cleveland has ended – but argued that national Government have a duty to underpin school transport. Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council has today passed plans to withdraw discretionary transport to faith schools, after working with the schools to find a solution. The decision – which mainly affected Sacred Heart School in Redcar and St Joseph’s Primary School in Loftus – was taken due to the council having to face decisions imposed on it by central Government to cut its budget by £26.3 million by 2020.
Sacred Heart School has now agreed to continue with a similar arrangement via a coach provider and St Joseph’s Primary has agreed to add a second minibus to its fleet and the council has agreed to assist with the costs of a vehicle in the first year.
Tom said “this is an honourable end to an issue that has been rumbling on since a previous administration in Redcar and Cleveland felt that this service would be unable to be supported given the sheer scale of budget cuts to be made. The new solution actually keeps the present levels of service broadly alive and is, in fact, more cost effective than the previous scheme.”
“Having said that, it isn’t a decision any council or school should have forced into making, and it had upset many parents who felt they could be left out on a limb in terms of their decision to pursue faith schooling for their children.”
“Given that the self-same issues have now come to the fore in neighbouring Middlesbrough, it is clear that this is not the actions of one vindictive council, but a reflection of the impact the cuts to local authority spending are having on local communities. Put simply, if the government are sincere in saying that they want parents to choose the form of education they deem fit for their children, then they should be prepared to support this aim financially by helping both councils and schools run transport schemes that fit the needs of pupils and parents. The fact that they don’t is evidence that for them a cuts agenda comes above else.”