A SENIOR Conservative MP has waded into the row over whether a local authority should pay for buses to schools outside its area.
Darwen’s Sir Jake Berry is urging parents in the town who send their children to schools in Bolton to take the opportunity afforded by a borough council review to make the case for it to provide financial assistance for services which carry their offspring to class.
Blackburn with Darwen Council currently supports four designated routes from the borough to schools in Bolton for a legally-defined group of pupils including those from low-income families, children with special educational needs and families who live more than three miles from school.
Sir Jake’s intervention follows a major row last year when the authority refused to step in to save the 981 service which took 30 children from Darwen, Turton, Hoddlesden and Chapeltown to and from Bolton’s Canon Slade School.
A similar dispute surfaced at Blackburn with Darwen’s Council Forum last week when teenage mum Tillie Delaney pleaded with authority bosses to find cash to avoid the cancellation of a service to Walton-le-Dale High School after Easter which affects 171 families in Livesey, Pleasington, Ewood and Mill Hill.
Sir Jake said: “I’ve been working closely with parents affected by cuts to the bus service to Canon Slade School in Bolton which has caused huge problems for parents and a detrimental effect to the students’ education.
“Many other residents also rely on bus services to get their children to school outside of the area and are understandably worried about the potential of a further reduction.
“I’m calling on all parents across Darwen whose children attend schools in Bolton to respond to the consultation so that the council knows how important these services are to local families.”
Blackburn with Darwen Council education boss Cllr Julie Gunn said: “We need to make sure the designated services which the council arranges and funds enable us to fulfil our home to school transport duties effectively.
“In early March, head teachers in Darwen and the south of the borough were given details of the consultation and parents were invited to make any comments on the council’s website.
“We fully understand this uncertainty will be unsettling for parents. The consultation ends on May 19 and it’s only then that we can make an informed decision.
“Those children for whom we have a statutory duty to provide home to school transport will not be affected by this review.”
West Pennine ward’s Conservative Clr Jean Rigby said: “Blackburn Labour’s decision not to support the bus service to Canon Slade has caused huge problems for families who relied on this service to get their children to school.
“I’m concerned the council are using this consultation as a smokescreen to cut back on school bus services.”