COUNCIL would have 'no control' if it were to allow a flexible school transport policy, officials say.

The Leader previously reported that to conservative representatives are urging Flintshire County Council to rethink its policy on Free School Transport.

The MP for Delyn, Rob Roberts and Member of the Senedd for North Wales, Mark Isherwood are calling for a return to free school transport – after the local Council clamped down on the number of children entitled to use buses without charge.

Rob Roberts has met with Council officials to express his concern after the authority decided to enforce a policy - determining access to transport based on walking routes - more strictly.

However, Steve Jones, Chief Officer Streetscene and Transportation said the policy is clear and follows Welsh Government guidelines.

He said: “The Council has a clear School Transport Policy which follow Welsh Government guidelines as set out in the Learner Travel Measures.

“Home to school transport is provided to any secondary school pupil or student residing more than three miles from their nearest appropriate school, and 2 miles for primary pupils. The policy is consistently applied in all cases and no services which fall within this policy have been withdrawn by the Council.

"Whilst the service is free to eligible pupils, there is a significant cost to the Council for providing the service. Every transport place costs around £750 per pupil, per year to provide. A consistent policy to set out eligibility for a free service essential.

"This provides parents with assurances that their application will be considered fairly, and within clear criteria. In these circumstances there will always be a ‘line on the map’, either side of which defines whether pupils receives transport or not. If we were to apply local flexibilities then the policy will be open to challenge by other parents not receiving free school transport for their children and we will have no control.

"The recommended walking routes to school from communities are reviewed regularly to ensure they are safe, and any maintenance works necessary along the route are prioritised and completed as resources become available.

"The Council supports parental choice in secondary school applications. In doing this it is made clear - at the point of applications being made for admission - that organising travel from home to a school which is outside of the three mile limit or to a school other that the nearest appropriate school, will be parental responsibility."

Council rules state that pupils qualify for free transport to the nearest suitable school based on a walking route mapped out by the authority’s own system.

Cllr Carolyn Thomas, Cabinet Member for Streetscene added: "We have a clear and consistent policy, and commit considerable financial resources to enabling pupils and students to travel from home to school. Our policy is fully compliant with Welsh Government national guidelines.

"Any changes to those national guidelines which might extend eligibility and increase the number of pupils qualifying for free school transport - in the way in which the MP and MS appear to be demanding - would have a significant impact on budgets and could only be achieved with national funding.

"We suggest that the MP and MS redirect their demands to Welsh Government. We cannot be expected to fund local flexibilities to national policy from Council Tax."