More councils consider withdrawing transport subsidies to religious schools

Trafford Council in Manchester has decided to stick to its plans to remove transport subsidies for pupils whose parents choose to send them to religious schools, despite threats of legal action from the local Catholic Church. It is anticipated that the cuts will save the council £375,000 a year.

The Council decided at an extraordinary Council meeting that it would uphold its previous decision to remove the privilege. The Diocese of Shrewsbury, which covers the four Catholic secondary schools in Trafford, sabre-rattled last month that it would consider a judicial review, saying the decision breached Catholic pupils’ human rights.

Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society, said: “Presumably the diocese’s legal advice has since told them that, far from breaching the rights of Catholic children, this subsidy breached the rights of everyone else by denying them the same privilege.”

Wiltshire County Council decided that, from next September, it will not provide any transport subsidy for new pupils at faith schools beyond their statutory obligation to do so for pupils from less well-off families. Children already at the schools and receiving subsidies will be given £409 a year towards the cost until they leave. It will be up to the schools themselves, rather than the council, to arrange transport in future. It is anticipated that the council will save £170,000 a year.

Brighton and Hove Council is to launch a consultation on scrapping free bus passes for pupils at religious schools. At present, it would affect 277 pupils at CardinalNewmanCatholicSchool and seven at Our Lady of Lourdes Roman Catholic Primary School in Rottingdean. However, the move would save the council nearly £68,000 a year.

Councillor Sue Shanks,Brighton and Hove City Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “I believe there are two very good reasons for revisiting this issue. Firstly, we’re committed to tackling inequality in the city, and concerns have been raised around whether this is a fair use of resources. And given the intense pressure on budgets, we must look closely at all non-statutory funding.”

Brighton and Hove City Council is the latest one to consult on scrapping free transport to faith schools. East Sussex County Council has also withdrawn many of its free school buses in a bid to save money.

See also: Religious schools accept that they have to pick up their own tab for transport