OXFORDSHIRE County Council has been slammed for stopping a school bus service despite it being ‘cost neutral’.

The highways authority, which provides two transport services for students in Nuneham Courtenay, The Baldons, Blackbird Leys, Garsington, Denton and Cuddesdon, will be stopping one of the routes from September to Wheatley Park School.

A letter has been sent to parents warning them the service will be coming to end due to it no ‘longer being sustainable’.

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However, shadow cabinet member for transport at the county council Ian Snowdon has described the service ending as a ‘stealth cut’ and states the decision will increase car journeys.

He said: “Even though the letter states the bus service is ‘cost neutral’ to the council they are stopping it.

“I have since found out this is a county wide issue. How is this helping to reduce one in four car journeys?

“Another round of stealth bus cuts from the ‘open and transparent administration’ at Oxfordshire County Council’.

In the letter, the highways authority said: “The majority of students who travel on these services travel via the ‘Spare Seats Scheme’, and where this has been cost neutral for the council to provide, the provision of has continued to run.

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“However, the contract for [one route] is coming to an end in July 23 and with current contract prices being received, it will no longer be sustainable for the council to continue to provide two school bus contracts where the number of children with a statutory entitlement to free home to school transport could be accommodated on one vehicle.

“In September 2023, there will be one vehicle serving the localities where the council have a requirement to provide transport from. This is currently Blackbird Leys, Garsington, Denton and Cuddesdon.

“However the number of spare seats available for children without a statutory entitlement to free home to school travel will reduce significantly.”

A spokesperson for Oxfordshire County Council told the Oxford Mail: “We are not withdrawing the ‘Spare Seats Scheme’ from the county entirely, only on certain routes where we have high levels of students travelling who are not entitled to free home to school transport.

“In the case of Wheatley Park, the letter read the buses ‘have been cost neutral’ which is correct at the moment.

“However, we have been seeing rising contract costs. For some contracts this has been as high as 32 per cent so there is no guarantee, when the route is retendered, that cost neutrality will remain the case – hence our decision to give notice to withdraw seats.

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“The council is very mindful when making these difficult decisions of the impact on the environment and reducing carbon, but this has to be balanced against the council’s budget.”


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This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Abingdon, Didcot, Wallingford and Wantage.

Get in touch with her by emailing: gee.harland@newsquest.co.uk

Follow her on Twitter @geeharland