A COUNCIL has been accused of ‘discrimination’ for choosing not to review the provision of free transport to faith schools.

Wrexham Council announced it would no longer be considering the removal of the service earlier this week, despite an estimated financial saving of £302,000.

There was strong opposition from parents and education officials against the move, which would have affected 406 pupils at 17 different schools in the county.

However, the idea of looking at the proposal was welcomed by more than half the 1,100 people who responded to the suggestion in a consultation.

Many felt parents should bare all or some of the cost when choosing for their child to attend a religious school.

A senior figure from The National Secular Society, which aims to separate religion from the state, also believes the review should have been conducted to provide equality for all families.

Stephen Evans, chief executive of the not-for-profit organisation, said: “It’s alarming to see councillors bowing to pressure from the vocal faith schools lobby in this way.

“With the council facing a budget shortfall, this decision to continue with discriminatory and discretionary spending on free transport to faith schools means the authority will now be forced to make cuts elsewhere.

“If parents feel strongly about children attending a more distant faith school, it is reasonable to expect them to meet the cost rather than the taxpayer – and for public funds to be channelled where they are most needed.”

The authority will now continue to provide free travel for youngsters living further than two miles from religious primary schools or three miles from the dual-faith St Joseph’s Catholic and Anglican High School .

It will be granted to them regardless of whether there is a non-faith school nearby.

The decision was made despite the council needing to make cuts of approximately £9 million to balance its books next year.

Council leader Mark Pritchard said the review would not take place following a ‘heart-searching’ discussion about the feedback received from members of the public.

Speaking previously, Cllr Pritchard (Ind) said: “We’ve had a long discussion between the political groups within the alliance and we’ve decided we won’t be taking it forward.

“A lot of people say, ‘they go out for consultation, they don’t listen, they do what they want to do and their minds are already made up’.

“I can assure you that isn’t the case.What we do is we send it out for consultation, we see what feedback comes back and then we have the discussions.

“I’d like to thank everybody who took part in the consultation and made their points known.”