Staffordshire County Council have set aside over one and a half million pounds to protect school transport contracts, as fuel costs rise.
The council’s current spend is around £18.3 million a year, with the funding going towards transporting children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND), whilst also being responsible for commissioning services for 970 roues for pupils entitled to free Home-to-School transport.
In order to make sure that services will continue, the council has set aside up to £1.89 million for a one-off payment for March, as well as adjusting contracts from last month to allow for higher costs for operators.
Staffordshire County Council’ cabinet member for Education and Special Education Needs and Disabilities, Jonathan Price, said:
“Increasingly we are seeing contracts being handed back and that leaves the council searching for new providers to take over a contract at short notice in a market with limited capacity.
If we can support existing providers, they can continue maintaining services that ensure pupils get to school and we keep costs down in the long run.”
He also added:
“The council doesn’t run its own fleet of vehicles so relies entirely on the private sector.
If we don’t act now to recognise the changing situation, there is a real danger that we will be left unable to fulfil our legal obligation to transport entitled children to school.”
Since January, 47 contracts have been handed back by operators, as their costs rise thanks to increasing costs for the maintenance of vehicles, driver shortages and increasingly fuel costs
Despite SEND and standard home-to-school services being supported by the majority of the funding, mainstream bus routes that are backed by the council will also be supported.