School transport costs blamed for Cambridgeshire County Council budget overspend

Cambs County Council

Cambs County Council - Credit: Archant

A rise in the number of children entitled to free school transport together with an increase in those needing specialist vehicles has helped break Cambridgeshire County Council’s budget for children, families and adults.

A report to Tuesday’s General Purposes Committee states the council is looking at overspending by more than £1.6 million on its annual budget for children, families and adults.

The report explains that nearly £300,000 of the excess has gone on providing transport for additional Post 16 students who are entitled to subsidised or free transport into Cambridge following changes in course availability at the City of Ely and Newmarket Colleges.

But the biggest overspend is likely to come on home to school transport for special needs children.

The report forecasts an increase in the overspend by £740,000 in this area and blames a rise in the average daily cost of transport per child.

It costs on average £92 per day, a rise of over three per cent compared to April this year, to take a child to and from school.

The rise is blamed on a reduction in competition, as there are fewer taxi companies with the necessary specialist vehicles that can offer the service. The complexity of children’s needs has also led to the need for more passenger assistants. In fact the county needs a further 31 passenger assistants to meet demand. And more children with more complex needs has also increased the use of single occupancy taxis.

Most Read

In addition there are more children with educational statements which has added to the pressure on the budget.

There are over 3,200 children with Statements - the highest number for over 10 years and the new statement rate for 2014/15 is predicted to be over 450.

In addition the report points out that “need is escalating in the early years” which has led to the county’s Special Schools being filled to capacity.

However, there is likely to be a £530,000 under-spend in the older people and adult mental health directorate.