Home to school transport panel to meet in public

A panel of councillors looking at problems with home to school transport in Brighton and Hove is to meet in public for the first time.

The panel will be made up of six councillors – two each from Labour, the Greens and the Conservatives – with Green councillor Hannah Clare in the chair.

It was criticised for holding its initial meeting behind closed doors last month prompting the two Tories – Councillor Mary Mears and Councillor Lee Wares – to walk out.

They said that secrecy was not consistent with Labour’s promise to rebuild trust with the families of some of the area’s most vulnerable children who were affected by the transport debacle.

The panel has asked for brief written submissions about any current problems with the service, taking up no more than one side of A4 paper, by Wednesday 22 January.

The submissions can come from anyone “interested” such as parents, carers or school staff and should be emailed to carolyn.bristow@brighton-hove.gov.uk.

Suggested topics include the impact on children and families, the impact on schools, route allocations and the effect on the budget for home to school transport.

Another suggested heading covers training and health and safety issues relating to operators, vehicles, drivers and passenger assistants.

The problems with the service arose at the start of the autumn term, with new contracts overseen by a cost-cutting consultancy Edge Public Solutions.

As well as leaving children with learning disabilities unable to get to and from school, the new money-saving set up sent the £3 million budget into the red.

Rather than achieving any savings, Edge’s approach – known as a “dynamic purchasing system” – appears to be heading for an £800,000 overspend.

There have been suggestions that the new arrangements are bedding in but questions asked in the council chamber point to a dispute between the council and the consultants.

And last week one firm, Haywards Heath Taxis, was “temporarily withdrawn from three routes” – affecting eight children – after claims that it had breached the terms of the contract.

The panel meeting is due to take place at the Brighthelm Centre, in North Road, Brighton, on Thursday (23 January). It is scheduled to start at 9.30am and should be held in public.

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