Until August 2010, primary school children in East Dunbartonshire were entitled to free travel if they lived more than a mile away from school, and secondary school children were eligible if they lived more than two miles away.
However, cuts announced in East Dunbartonshire Council’s February 2010 budget, effective from August, meant that the limits were increased to two and three miles respectively.
While the Labour-Tory budget proposed to cut free primary and secondary school transport and the SNP budget proposed to cut secondary school transport, only the Liberal Democrats’ budget opted to maintain the free services.
Latest News: Cuts to primary school buses reversed, fees reduced for secondary pupils
There was a breakthrough at a special Council meeting on 26th August 2010 when the Liberal Democrats secured a concession from the administration to restore free services for primary school children and cut the charges for secondary school pupils by 10%.
SNP councillors opportunistically proposed to reinstate free school transport for primary and secondary school pupils, but this plan was to be funded with a one-off windfall of cash from a VAT rebate, meaning it could not be sustained into the next financial year.
Instead of backing this plan to reinstate services which would only have to be withdrawn again a few months later, Liberal Democrat councillors proposed an amendment, which won the backing of the administration, to restore the threshold for primary school pupils from 2 miles back to 3, and to reduce the fees for secondary school pupils by 10%.
Prior to this, Labour and Tory Councillors staunchly opposed any attempt to reverse the cuts.
The Liberal Democrats tabled a motion, to be considered at the Council’s meeting on 22nd April, which would have reversed the decision to cut free school bus services.
For more information, see the following news story:
The Council’s standing orders needed to be temporarily suspended in order for this matter even to be debated, as usually budget decisions cannot be challenged for six months. The Liberal Democrats’ motion to suspend the standing orders required two thirds of Councillors to vote for it in order for the motion on reversing bus cuts to be debated. Frustratingly, Labour and Tory Councillors voted against it, so even though the vote was 13-10 for suspending the standing orders, that was not enough. See the following link for more information:
Parents speak out
Understandably, parents have spoken out against the Labour-Tory administrations cuts to free school transport, which would see 5-year-old children walking up to 4 miles a day. Many children do not have safe routes available to walk to school, and parents are concerned about their safety.
Some parents started a petition, which I signed, calling on the Council to reverse its decision.
Parents have held demonstrations across East Dunbartonshire to highlight the impact of the cuts. A banner was hung outside St. Andrew’s Primary School in Bearsden reading ’3 buses or 120 cars? You decide’ but unfortunately the Council removed it. For more information see the following news story:
As we saw when the new school year started in August 2010, cutting free school bus services resulted in more parents driving their children to school, which means increased congestion and more air pollution, which is damaging to our environment and to our health.
For more information see the following news story: