Parents greet Torbay Council's decision to phase in students' bus fees
PLANS to postpone bus pass fees for some schoolchildren has been welcomed by parents.
Torbay Council wants to save £113,840 by stopping discretionary transport assistance from September 1.
But the plans have been halted for a year in recommendations made by Mayor Gordon Oliver and spokesman for children's services, Cllr Chris Lewis.
Parent Annette Solomon, who sends her children to St Cuthbert Mayne school on grounds of faith, has welcomed the news.
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She said: "I am relieved. Not least for parents who would not have known where they stand until April so they would have had only five months to find up to £1,500.
"Of course, we won't celebrate until the decision has been made, but it is certainly a good move."
South Devon College will lose its £70,000 grant which assists 800 students with travelling.
But the cut will be phased in over three years to reduce the impact on students who currently study at the college and rely on subsidised travel.
The recommendations came as overview and scrutiny councillors took their final look at Torbay Council's budget.
The council has to make a £10million cut to its overall budget.
Cllr Chris Lewis said: "It is important a decision is made sooner rather than later because the outcome will affect the decision on where people send their children."
He said discussions would continue with South Devon College and bus firm Stagecoach.
The council will also consult with parents who currently send their children to selective schools.
Cllr Lewis said: "We have listened and I hope it will be welcomed by people in the Bay."
The council has a statutory obligation to provide transport assistance to pupils of school age if they live further than a specified walking distance from their nearest school.
The council also spends £22,320 per year on bus passes for 144 students studying in school sixth forms, where they live further than three miles away. Free bus passes for pupils from low income families to any secondary school between two and six miles away cost the council £15,000 per year.
The council spends £4,000 per year on helping to pay for bus passes for 62 pupils attending St Cuthbert Mayne on grounds of faith, and £2,520 per year supporting 42 pupils at selective schools, in both cases where they meet the qualifying criteria.
South Devon College bosses have welcomed the changes.
College principal Stephen Criddle said: "We are pleased Torbay Council has reconsidered its position and will not be making an immediate cut to remove this support. South Devon College proposed an alternative which the council has accepted, and cuts will now be carefully managed on a phased basis over the next three years, ensuring those currently receiving support will be able to complete their course."