POLITICIANS have labelled a possible review of free transport to faith schools in Wrexham as ‘discriminatory’.

It comes despite most residents polled by Wrexham Council backing the suggestion to potentially remove the service in a bid to save in the region of £302,000.

A total of 1,123 people responded to the question, just over half of whom said there should be a review.

Many felt parents should bare all or some of the cost when choosing for their child to attend a religious school, but members of the authority’s lifelong learning scrutiny committee said it would be unfair.

Around 18 per cent of respondents voted against the changes, which would affect 406 pupils attending 17 different schools in the county.

Liberal Democrat group leader Cllr Alun Jenkins was among those who strongly opposed the review.

Speaking at a meeting at Wrexham’s Guildhall, he said: “I’ve got great concern that what we’re embarking on here is totally unacceptable.

“It’s discriminatory and in terms of equality and human rights it’s something we shouldn’t be pursuing.

“I know that if the shoe was on the other foot and we were talking about charges being made for parents of children who had chosen to go to Welsh education, then I would be feeling extremely annoyed that the suggestion was being put forward.

“If we can’t discriminate against those that have chosen on the grounds of language then we shouldn’t discriminate against those that have chosen on grounds of faith either.”

The suggestion has also been criticised by the headteacher of St Joseph’s Catholic and Anglican High School, which is the only faith-based secondary school in the area.

In response, leading councillors have stressed that no decision has been taken and any changes would not take place until September 2021 at the earliest.

The proposal was outlined as Wrexham Council is faced with a budget gap of £9 million next year unless the Welsh Government announces any further funding for local authorities this week.

Cllr David A Bithell (Ind), lead member for environment and transport, said: “Just to put it into perspective, we’re facing really difficult financial times especially in the environment department.

“This is a discretionary service and the total service cost is £300,000.

“All we’re asking is that a review is undertaken for faith transport which is a discretionary service.”

Labour group leader Cllr Dana Davies questioned whether the review could leave the council open to legal challenges.

She said: “I’m concerned about the risks around potential legal challenges arising from the proposal.

“One legal challenge to the High Court could wipe out our savings straight away so that’s the worry for me.”

Despite the issues raised, council leader Mark Pritchard (Ind) said he was unhappy that the committee had asked for details on the review before the final settlement was known.

He also accused those who called it ‘discriminatory’ of being unfair.

He said: “We all know we’re not going to have our final decision until December 19.

“Politically, as an alliance or coalition, we haven’t made a decision on any of these areas.

“I have had some concerns here this morning on what was being said about discrimination.

“I think it’s unfair and untrue at this stage.”

The majority of committee members voted that the review should not be taken forward.

It will now be considered by the authority’s executive board at a later date.