COST cutting measures for home to school transport are unlikely to come into force before September 2023, Cheshire East has said.

The council has employed a company to review its home to school transport provision as the cost soars.

Cllr Kathryn Flavell, chair of the children and families committee, told Monday’s meeting: “There are always difficulties. We know some children can travel on a bus with others, some can share a taxi, some can't, some have to go on their own.

“There are all sorts of issues and hopefully this review will look at how we're doing and come up with some suggestions to help us with that budget.”

Councillor Lesley Smetham raised concern about using consultants to do the work and said she thought it had already been identified elsewhere that school transport was better done in-house.

“I hope we're not repeating what's been done with these costly consultants,” she said.

Councillor Jos Saunders sought reassurances that if more investment was needed in the short term it would be provided.

Knutsford Guardian:

Cllr Jos Saunders

“Over recent years we all know there’s been unrealistic savings put in the budget for school transport,” she said.

“What I would like some information on and reassurance really is, if in the short term it means maybe some more investment, is it going to be funded, because I don't want yet again next year being told that actually we're over budget again on transport.”

Cllr Flavell told her: “It was noted last year that we didn't put enough in and they've added another £1.2m for this year so that investment has happened.”

With regard to Cllr Smetham’s concern about using external consultants, Cllr Flavell said: “I do think, given that it's such an important topic and we do have these statutory requirements and it's an area where we struggled to meet the cost, it's right that it's an objective, external body to look into this.”

Questions were raised about the time-line if changes were to be made.

Director of education Jacky Forster said recommendations from the review would be considered by the children and families committee in September and that was when the decisions would be made.

“Part of that review is about base-lining our budgets, so what should be the appropriate budget going forward,” she said.

She added: “We are not anticipating that a great deal will be implemented until the following September because once the committee makes a decision in September, those individual proposals will then need consultations, etc.”