Newport City Council’s cabinet member for education and young people approved the implementation of a fair charging policy for post-16 students in respect of home to school transport in June 2013.
Post-16 students who qualify for home to school transport assistance are eligible to receive a discretionary travel grant of £150 per academic year towards the actual cost of their travel to and from school.
A large proportion of post-16 students utilise Newport Transport and a scheme is in place which allows students to purchase an annual season ticket, the full cost of which is offset by the value of the travel grant. Newport Transport currently charges £497 for an annual season ticket, the student is therefore able to purchase for £347.
Other students are however unable to access their catchment or nearest available school via Newport Transport services, and travel is provided on a contracted service. This is tendered for by the council under their framework arrangements. Students who access travel to school in this way are eligible for the £150 travel grant contribution, and must pay a “top-up” fee to the calculated cost of a seat. These costs have not been revised for a number of years and as result pay a “top-up” fee of just £45 per academic year.
This means there is a large disparity between the transport costs paid by post-16 students, dependent solely on where they live and where they attend school.
The Passenger Transport Team has calculated that the actual cost of a seat on a contracted bus as between £730 and £750 per year. Post-16 students accessing travel to school in this way are therefore benefiting significantly from hugely reduced transport costs. The council bears the cost of this subsidy, currently estimated to be in the region of £91,000 per year.
Raising the cost to these students in line with the additional amount payable by students accessing Newport Transport services would reduce the financial subsidy to approximately £42,000 and result in them paying £347. This change will come into effect at the start of the autumn term 2014
Charging the full cost of the contract vehicle seat to the student would negate the subsidy. However, this would result in these students paying a cost in the region of £600 per year for their travel to school - a significant increase when compared with the current charge of £45.
The council recognises that such a significant cost could cause financial hardship for some families and has agreed a phased implementation programme that will remove the subsidy in full by September 2017.
Councillor Bob Poole, cabinet member for education and young people