R4U refers Essex County Council to Department for Education for investigation into failure to provide school transport

R4U has asked the Department for Education to investigate ECC for a breach of its statutory duty to provide school transport.

Over the summer ECC forced through adverse changes to school transport that have affected many families, even leaving some with shock bills in the thousands. Until 2015 ECC provided school transport to any catchment area school, but their recent changes mean they only provide transport to the nearest school regardless of whether places are available.

Neil Hargreaves is one of R4U’s district councillors for Newport and has been spearheading the campaign for residents. He said:

ECC policy does not comply with DfE rules

“R4U has been working on behalf of affected families since the scandal broke. A close review of the Department for Education Statutory Guidance shows that ECC’s policy does not comply with the rules set by the DfE.  They are required to provide school transport to ‘the nearest … school with available places’, not just ‘the nearest school’. ECC is failing in its obligation, particularly to those living in villages.”

Cllr Neil Hargreaves
Cllr Neil Hargreaves (Newport) (R4U)

R4U seeks investigation by DfE

“R4U asked ECC to bring its policy into line with that required by the DfE but Cllr Ray Gooding, the ECC Cabinet member responsible for education, who is also the Essex Councillor for the Stansted, Quendon and Newport area, has flatly refused.  In the light of this we have written to the DfE to urge that they review ECC’s apparent breach of its statutory duty.”

Unfair policies that favour the rich

“To make matters worse ECC has hit hard-working local families again by removing subsidy for those who already pay for school transport. Their changes mean that a family with three children in an affected parish will now be paying up to £3000 a year. R4U asked ECC council leader David Finch to follow Cambridgeshire’s example and protect those already on courses from large rises, but again he refused.  The response was that parents had been ‘consulted’ and ECC had no obligation to subsidise school transport. We’ve reviewed the consultation and it was a sham as it made no mention of large rises or the impacts to families.”

“These Conservative policies favour the wealthy over the vast majority of residents that are working hard to house, feed and educate their families. They are an assault on villagers. We will continue to take all measures we can to force ECC to carry out its statutory duties. In the meantime we urge affected families to get in touch with us, and keep their transport receipts.”

About Residents for Uttlesford

Residents for Uttlesford (R4U) is the local independent party of north-west Essex towns and villages. Formed in 2014 by a number of residents’ groups, the party believes that on local issues residents should decide, not Westminster parties. R4U’s success has been based on the desire to give local people a voice and implement long range strategic and sustainable plans for their area.

R4U leads Uttlesford District Council (UDC). In its first election in 2015 it became the second party at UDC. In the May 2019 R4U took majority control of UDC by gaining two-thirds of the seats. Since then it has set about re-engineering the now award-winning council operates, rebuilding the finances and fixing how planning is done. In 2021 the party won half the Essex County Council seats in Uttlesford district.

R4U also leads Saffron Walden Town Council, where under its stewardship the council has rebuilt finances, invested in community assets, and won multiple awards, including the best run council in Essex. It is a minority party on Great Dunmow Town Council.

Residents for Uttlesford can be found on the web at www.residents4u.org.