Recently, parents who pay for Essex school transport received notification of the second large increase in costs in 12 months, so most will now pay nearly £1,000 a year. I believe many of these should be receiving free transport. The Department for Education statutory guidance is that transport must be provided to the nearest school which has places.
After years of failure to expand school places all choice of schools has been removed for most of our children. They can only go to their catchment school. But in a further twist on top of this gross mis-management, the County Councillor for Stansted, Ray Gooding, who is Cabinet member for Education, sponsored a further wheeze to charge parents. A number of the catchment schools are not the closest, so he is refusing the required free transport, even though students cannot go anywhere else.
In answer to a written question from our Essex R4U councillor John Lodge, Cllr Gooding claimed that he is right and that the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) has exonerated Essex. However the Department for Education have told us that they are still investigating Essex, using the evidence from parents, forwarded to the investigating official by R4U. And that, despite Cllr Gooding’s claim, they are waiting on LGO appeal decisions.
In a follow up in the Council chamber Cllr Gooding said he slept soundly at night despite burdening parents with extra costs.
He may not be too bothered about families but he is most diligent about claiming his own travelling expenses. Last year, on top of a substantial salary, he claimed nearly £5000 of expenses as well as having £500 of free lunches at County Hall. Over 10 years his expenses have totalled over £42,000.
Residents for Uttlesford believe parents and students deserve much better. It’s time for a change. That’s why I’m standing for election to replace Ray Gooding on May 4th.
R4U Prospective Candidate – Essex Council Councillor (Stansted Division)
(incl. Newport, Clavering, Elsenham & Henham wards)