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Kent County Council home to school transport costs soar

The soaring price tag of home to school transport (HST) is laid bare by new figures published by Kent County Council (KCC).

Seventy nine children who have won the right to receive free lifts on appeal will cost the tax-payer nearly £400,000.

More than 6,000 pupils get free taxis to classes in Kent. Stock image: iStock
More than 6,000 pupils get free taxis to classes in Kent. Stock image: iStock

Data which went before the regulation committee on Tuesday (January 30) shows that each child to be given transport will amount to £5,000 each annually.

Late last year, it was revealed transport for youngsters with special education needs will cost the tax-payer £60 million in 2023/24. More than 6,000 pupils get free taxis to classes in Kent.

In 2023, the committee’s transport appeals panel heard 142 cases, 79 of which were upheld wholly or in part.

The papers state: “The approximate cost to the council in supplying transport for those successful appeals for the period mentioned above totals £396,176.

“An additional 110 appeals were received/scheduled but were not heard due to them being either reassessed by the transport team or withdrawn by the parent.”

Cllr Simon Webb
Cllr Simon Webb

With another 13 scheduled to be heard early this year, the cost could rise even further.

In 2022, 104 appeals were considered by the panel with 48% being successful.

Conservative councillor Simon Webb, a former principal primary advisor in Kent said: “Given the cost of home to school transport, the amounts mentioned sound about right.

“But we do have to question why parents are having to appeal for HST when there should be mechanisms in place to ensure that school places are near to where the parents live.”

In December 2023, former KCC transport cabinet member Cllr David Brazier called for an internal audit of costly cab journeys for children to avoid the authority being “taken for a ride”.

Cllr David Brazier
Cllr David Brazier

Cllr Brazier suggested KCC was paying too much for the service in a debate over the huge cost of providing HST.

Appeals are upheld for a variety of reasons including financial hardship, the child’s circumstances and health or medical requirements.

Last year, the Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Antony Hook, called on KCC to slash costs by introducing its own in-house taxi service.

It came at a time when KCC reported HST costs for SEN children had rocketed year on year (July 2022-23) by £15m, driven by a near 11% rise in pupils carried by cab.

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