Bus seats. Picture: Mark Hillary
Bus seats. Picture: Mark Hillary

A scheme that sees pupils able to to use spare seats on school buses may not return, councillors have admitted.

The Temporary Vacant Seat Scheme (TVSS) was halted during the coronavirus pandemic.

Staffordshire County Council now says it is unlikely to reinstate the suspended scheme for the new school year.

The authority said it had been “burdened by new Government guidance and a lack of suitable vehicles”.

Cllr Jonathan Price, Staffordshire County Council’s cabinet member for education, said:

“This scheme was launched many years ago by the council over and above legal requirements to help people where we could and to offset some of the costs of moving thousands of pupils by school bus.

“Recent changes to Government guidance mean that this scheme costs us money to administer and will mean that one child has a free seat, while another will pay hundreds of pounds for theirs and a third child will have no opportunity at all.

“It’s unfair, it’s costing Staffordshire taxpayers money and it’s a mess not of our making, so we propose to stop the scheme for good, as have some other counties, unless someone presents a solution.”

Cllr Jonathan Price, Staffordshire County Council

Around 8,000 pupils use free home to school transport across Staffordshire, with a further 112,000 not entitled to free travel making their own way to and from school.

Figures showed that around 300 children were able to use TVSS, with 100 people also expressing an interest in using it.

A consultation has now been launched via an online survey ahead of a final decision on the scheme.

Cllr Price added:

“We’re being entirely open by telling people what we think and the reasons why, but we will listen and adapt if there is something reasonable and workable that we can do.

“Interested parents have already been told to make their own plans for September and we will continue to keep them informed.”

Cllr Jonathan Price, Staffordshire County Council

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