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Mill End mother-of-two blasts decision to slash free school transport in Herts
A MOTHER-of-two from Mill End says she will be left 'severely out of pocket' in the wake of school transport spending cuts.
The Gazette reported last week how hundreds of parents will be forced to tighten their belts after Hertfordshire County Council (HCC) approved plans to slash free travel for pupils.
From September 2012, free transport will only be offered to those who are statutorily entitled, disabled or eligible for free meals. The service will also be limited to the nearest qualifying school.
Georgina Bowman-Smyth, of Middleton Road, says the decision will leave her struggling to make ends meet.
The stay-at-home mum to Joshua, eight, and five-year-old Elliot (pictured), says the situation is worsened by the lack of places for local children, and the fact Hertfordshire pupils are only given three school choices, while those in neighbouring areas, including Hillingdon, are given six.
Mrs Bowman-Smyth, one of 300 members of the WD3 Schools Action Group, which has led an ongoing campaign for a new secondary school in Three Rivers, said: "I was one of 700-odd respondents who took part in focus groups for HCC's school transport consultation and 73 per cent of us didn't agree with offering free travel to qualifying schools only.
"Why bother carrying out the consultation if no one was going to listen?
"Joshua will go to secondary school in 2014, the biggest shortfall year, and I have been told our nearest qualifying school, Westfield Community Technology College (CTC) in Watford, could be full.
"It's too far away for us to cycle so somehow we will have to find Â£1,000 a year to fund our son's travel to St Clement Danes in Chorleywood, or St Joan of Arc in Rickmansworth.
"My husband, Ian, works as an engineer but I'm not earning and we could put that money to much better use.
"I think some parents may even choose to home-school their kids as they simply can't afford to pay for their transport.
"I brought my children into the world and they want me to be at home - they don't want to be looked after by a stranger.
"HCC has suggested that people voluntarily set up their own bus routes but who is going to pay for that? They are living in cloud cuckoo land.
"I'm not against a lot of the spending cuts but my parents didn't have to pay to send me to school and I don't think I should either."
The proposals, approved on March 21, driven by a need to reduce the county's annual Â£25million transport bill, are set to save between Â£5-6million.
A HCC spokesperson denied that Westfield CTC would be full by 2014.
He added: "Just like all schools, Westfield has a new intake of students every year and there is no reason why this should change in 2014.
"We have listened to the legitimate concerns of people who responded to the consultation, assessed the impact of our decisions, and will continue to consider exceptional circumstances in individual cases."
Mark Sutton, chairman of the WD3 Schools Action Group, added: "The cuts in transport costs are going to severely affect all SW Herts parents as the demand predicted by Herts CC for school places increases and children have to travel further afield to get to school.
"The only solution to this issue is a new non-selective school in the WD3 area to provide much needed places for local children so that such journeys are not required."
What do you think? Email Gazette reporter Siba Matti at email@example.com or post a comment below.
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