THOUSANDS of children could be affected as a local authority considers whether to end free transport for those attending religious and Welsh medium schools.

Flintshire Council’s cabinet is also set to consider whether to withdraw discretionary travel for pupils whose parents receive benefits, as well as those in post-16 education, with costs currently mounting to more than £2m.

In a report going before councillors next Tuesday, the council has put three options forward, including to introduce charges, stop the services in their entirety or keep them as they are.

It said it had identified several areas where free transport is currently being provided ‘over and above’ its existing policy.

It estimates that taking pupils to Welsh medium schools currently costs it £490,000 per year, while transport to faith schools is billed at £435,000.

Meanwhile, it says it spends more than £1.2m on free transport for college and sixth form attendees, but no figure was attributed to providing travel for those in receipt of benefits.

Flintshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Youth, Councillor Ian Roberts, said: “Any changes in transport policy would require consultation and would require cabinet to consider the views of key stakeholders in their consideration and determination at a future cabinet meeting.

“Additionally, an implementation period is required which would result in the earliest implemented of any proposed changes being September 2020.”

Currently 720 pupils in the county receive free transport to Welsh schools, with the same number for religious schools.

As of November 2017 there were also 1,900 college and sixth form pupils in receipt of free travel.

The council has noted that making savings on Welsh-medium transport could lead to it contravening its own Welsh language policy.

It said it would carefully consider any changes, and pledged to assess the impact on low income families, as well as those with more than one child.