Bus chaperones U-turn ‘is people power victory’
CAMPAIGNERS who fought plans to scrap chaperones on buses carrying pupils to primary schools have celebrated victory but slammed Warwickshire County Council for putting parents through the worry about their childrens’ safety.
And they claim the U-turn by the ruling Concervative group was brought about by fear of defeat when the decision goes before full council debate on February 19 - forced by protestors notching up nearly 7,000 signatures on a petition.
Campaigner Alastair Ross said two years ago the council announced it would save around £700,000 by axing chaperones and the renegotiation of bus contracts.
In a statement announcing the change, Tory group leader Cllr Alan Farnell said the loss of chaperones on buses, coaches and taxis was part of a £1.4 million savings programme for school transport.
It went on to say: “However, research has indicated that the savings package has been made elsewhere through measures such as a robust tendering process using e-auctions resulting in lower operational prices.”
And Heather Timms, the county councillor responsible for policy on children, young people and families, said as in politics and life, “no decision is never irreversible”.
Mr Ross, of Hatton Park, whose daughter attends the Ferncumbe Primary School in Hatton, said Freedom of Information (FoI) requests showed the £700,000 savings were not achievable.
He said: “It’s a fantastic result and shows that the petition signed by people throughout Warwickshire has worked. It’s a victory for people power.”
More research should have gone into the proposal before it was made public, said Mr Ross, saving parents worry and anguish.
“It would have been better if the council had been a bit honest in the past about how much the savings would have been. We believe they have acted now, rather than face a humiliating defeat.”
Parents, pupils and staff at Bishop’s Tachbrook Primary School said they were ‘over the moon’ with the decision.
Headteacher Andy Brettell said: “Despite council budgets being so very stretched, it is heartening to see that Warwickshire have shown their over riding commitment for children’s safety by reversing their earlier decision and finding the funds to maintain this vital service.”
Many parents had been unwilling to put their youngsters on the school bus without an escort as the driver cannot attend to pupils’ safety while driving.
Chris White MP, who had supported the school’s campaign, described the decision as “a victory for commonsense.”
“It’s a big relief and the right decision.” said parent and village councillor Carol Gabbitas, who has been helping supervise the children herself to ensure their safety since the service was removed due to budget cuts last year.
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