CONTROVERSIAL proposals to axe free transport to schools for disabled children have been postponed until after next year.
The surprise announcement was made at a Coventry City Council full meeting this afternoon by education cabinet member David Kershaw.
The move was unusual as the council had begun a public consultation on the proposals, which would have saved the council £420,000 a year.
Coun Kershaw, who was recently physically assaulted in the street in what have otherwise been peaceful protests, said the Labour group had listened and responded early to disabled younsters, families and Coventry people.
He said postponing any decision beyond the previous timescale of next year’s budget would allow more time to devise a scheme, in consultation with families, which could be “more efficient” and “promote independence” for disabled people.
Transport to schools for around 1000 disabled people is subsidised by the council, which provides hired buses or taxis.
Coun Kershaw had previously stated some disabled students would be able to get to and from school more independently, including on public transport, given mentoring and training.
He told the council there would be no cuts to the free travel scheme in next year’s budget, to be set next February.
He said: “The service will continue to be funded for at least a year while as a council we continue to work closely with parents, carers and children on the implications of the proposed changes to our travel policies.”
He said his Labour cabinet colleagues were supportive of the move to “act quickly to lessen the impact of the deep, hurtful cuts imposed on us by the government.”
Coventry City Council has been subsidising the scheme beyond minimum government requirements in place at other councils including Warwickshire and Solihull, officers claim.
A two-month public consultation on the proposals began last month.
Subsidies for home to school travel to mainstream schools has already been drastically cut in recent years.
About 1,000 children and young people qualify for some form of travel assistance provided directly by the council or from hired minibuses and taxis.
Under the postponed proposals, around 270 under 16s would no longer be eligible, and about 65 post-16s would have to pay for the service.
Families of other children and young people would have to pay for transport out of their “personal transport budgets”, if they quality for one.