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Parents offered 40p a mile to drive children to school

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Parents of pupils attending Cambridgeshire schools where bus timetables have changed or axed, will be offered 40p a mile to take their children to school.

The announcement came out – unofficially – during a debate at the county council strategy and resources committee by Cllr Chris Boden (Conservative).

He said letters had gone out from the council explaining the 40p a mile subsidy.

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Cllr Boden said that from Monday week – when changes come into force – it was important for residents to understand “there are problems and as far as school transport is concerned now, we are going to have to subsidise individuals using private car”.

But he said there had been no mention of those parents without a car and he asked whether they were meant to get taxis.

And he wondered what would happen to poorer parents who do not have a car.?

“These are important issues, and we are talking about less than two weeks to go,” said Cllr Boden.

“It is vitally important people are told the truth that there can be a problem and secondly solutions are provided beyond that made yesterday

“We have a significant issue, and we cannot brush it under the carpet and not just cover the back of the mayor (Dr Nik Johnson) about things that have gone wrong.”

Cllr Richard Howitt (Labour) said the debate at the meeting had degenerated into a political attack on a Labour mayor and was not simply about bus services.

Cllr Richard Howitt (Labour) said the debate at the meeting had degenerated into a political attack on a Labour mayor and was not simply about bus services.

He said privatized bus services “never provided a good service to a lot of people in Cambridgeshire in the first place”.

It was a Labour mayor who had restored 14 out of 18 and times and services would mean changes “which is something that will come out in the wash. But give credit to the mayor”

Cllr Howitt felt there should be “some humility” among those Conservative councillors who had called for a vast sum of money to be offered in advance for bus service subsidies when in fact the combined authority had secured bus reinstatements without it.

“The mayor and the combined authority do deserve credit for what they have done, acknowledged in this council rather than petty attacks on the mayor who has done an outstanding job and he deserves the credit,” he said.

Cllr Steve Count (Conservative) said it was wrong to suggest “everything has been saved – in fact, the vast majority (of bus services) have been altered immensely beyond recognition”.

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Council leader Lucy Nethsingha (Lib Dem) offered Cllr Count a briefing by the combined authority transport team to better understand the issues.

Cllr Lucy Nethsingha: “Stagecoach behaved this autumn spectacularly awful on a whole different league of awfulness”.

She said there had been a lot of discussion about bus services and there are “very severe constraints on routes which are continuing to be commercially run”.

She called for changes in legislation to allow councils and combined authorities to have more control over way bus companies are regulated and to stop companies from withdrawing routes “with quite the same lack of warning as they do at the moment”.

Cllr Boden said that Mayor Dr Nik Johnson had been “doing the round on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire saying problem solved” and this was not the case.  

From Monday week, for example, there were going to be thousands not being able to use their bus service because it had either gone, or the timetable had changed.

And there was one service, which is always full, that would see a 50pc reduction and will not be able to accommodate all those wanting to use it.

“People are  going to be left behind at the bus stops,” he said.

Cllr Lorna Dupre (Lib Dem) said the combined authority had pulled off “an amazing feat” in achieving retendering many services.

“That said yes, what Stagecoach has proposed is not going to be 100 pc reinstatement of the services. Other changes announced by Stagecoach will affect other services negatively, which are not removal of the service.”

Cambridgeshire, she felt, needed a functioning public transport system that could include bus franchising.

“Absolute credit though to those left to mop up the mess made by Stagecoach,” she added praising again the work of combined authority officers.  

Cllr Nethsingha said she had been a councillor for over 15 years and for the whole of that time there had been massive frustration “about what we are not able to do about bus services; it not a new problem

“Stagecoach behaved this autumn spectacularly awful on a whole different league of awfulness”.

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