taxi sign, pic creative commons by Brad Hammonds

Cheshire East is to increase the mileage rate for families whose children qualify for free home-to-school travel in an attempt to slash nearly £450,000 off school transport costs, writes Belinda Ryan.

The council offers personal travel budgets (PTB) to some parents whose children are eligible for free transport.

A PTB is a cash amount awarded to parents or carers as an alternative to using taxis to transport the children between home and school.

It is only offered if it proves more cost effective than the council providing transport.

At the children and families committee, councillors were told a consultation with parents had revealed more would take up the PTB if the rate was increased from 25p to 45p a mile.

External consultant Richard Hall said: “13% of parents whose children are taken to school in taxis would actually be more willing to take a payment offer at the higher rate.

“If we applied those percentages to the current single occupancy routes, we would be looking at potentially converting 20 of those routes, which would have a significant impact in terms of how much we’re actually paying out for those existing routes.”

A report to the committee showed the estimated cost of upping the mileage rate would be £139,686.

It continues: “However, based on the consultation results, savings of £431,400 could be achieved through converting existing taxi routes to PTBs.”

Poynton councillor Jos Saunders (Con) said: “I really welcome this report because we all know school transport has caused a lot of challenges to the finances of the council.”

But she added: “We’ve still got 30% going to school by taxi and only 13% said that they would change if the rates were uplifted.

“I wondered if you had any ideas how we could change that … it’s almost imperative we do a lot of work in achieving that because savings of more than £400,000 are huge and could have a very positive impact on our finances.”

She was told a 13% uptake was better than officers had expected.

Another officer said it was easier, when talking to eligible parents, if it was discussed in terms of the annual figure rather than 45p a mile.

“When you start saying that’s £4,000 or £5,000 a year people start to think a bit differently,” she said.

Cllr George Hayes (Congleton West, Con) wondered whether there were any legal implications for the council, because the parents would be transporting their children to school on the council’s behalf. He asked if there would be a need for business insurance.

The council’s solicitor said all legal aspects would be looked into but business insurance would not be needed.

Macclesfield councillor Sarah Bennett-Wake (Lab) told the committee: “For me this is a no-brainer because it gives parents more choice, it gives parents more money because the cost of everything has gone up and it’s comparable with other councils.”

She said taxis aren’t always the best method of transport for children with special needs.

“The parents know what the needs of their children are, what their sensory needs are,” she said.

“They’re in a familiar vehicle with a familiar face and quite often, for some children, that’s the best place to be with their parents or guardian and that’s better all round, it gives people choice.”

The committee voted unanimously to increase the current mileage rate for PTBs from 25p per mile to 45p from September.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By using this form you agree with the storage and handling of your data by this website, to learn more please read our privacy policy.


Captcha * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.