Page last updated at 05:50 GMT, Wednesday, 12 May 2010 06:50 UK

Parent anger at Carmarthen free school bus changes

Ysgol Bro Myrddin
New pupils living up to three miles from school would lose free transport

Parents have expressed anger at a decision that could force 11-year-old children to walk up to three miles to their school.

Carmarthenshire County Council has decided to scrap free buses for new pupils who live within three miles of Ysgol Bro Myrddin from September.

The rule would not apply to existing pupils and could mean older brothers and sisters still using buses for free.

The council has said it has created a "safe route to school".

But some parents are concerned their children will have to walk through Carmarthen centre to reach the route.

In the past, Carmarthenshire Council paid for free transport for pupils that live under three miles from the school, although there is no statutory requirement to do so.

Pupils that live inside the three-mile limit from the school will either have to walk to school along the route, pay to use a public bus service from the town centre or be driven to the school by their parents.

Older siblings

However, older siblings that currently receive free school transport will still be able to catch the school bus, while their younger brother or sister would have to make their own way to school.

So long as the child is healthy then he is expected to walk to school or use public transport
Haydn Jones, Carmarthenshire councillor

The council has decided to enforce the policy from September 2010 for new pupils, which will affect about 20 families whose children attend the school.

Plaid Cymru Carmarthenshire councillor Peter Hughes-Griffiths told BBC Radio Cymru's Post Cyntaf programme that the situation was "farcical".

"It is unacceptable when you have buses from rural areas coming though town picking up children - there's no money saving in it at all."

He said parents were "very aggrieved".

He said: "They will not allow their children to walk that distance though Carmarthenshire town across dangerous roads; especially in the dead of winter."

Haydn Jones, a cabinet member for transport at the council, said the authority had no choice but to scrap the free transport.

"So long as the child is healthy then he is expected to walk to school or use public transport," he said.

'Ridiculous situation'

He said the resulting situation of younger siblings being forced to walk while older brothers and sisters could take the free bus was "ridiculous". But he said it was the only way to be fair and equitable.

He said: "We decided do it that way so as not to actually take the service that has been afforded to these children away from them. We have to start somewhere."

He said the authority was trying to "stabilise and standardise the transport of children to every one of our schools throughout the county".

"The rules are not set by us but by local government," he added, saying he understood parents were upset.

Mr Hughes-Griffiths said he was organising a meeting between parents and officials from the council to "find a way out of this mad situation".

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