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BIG RISE IN SCHOOL BUS FARES.

Byline: Moira Sharkey Education Correspondent

PARENTS say they are struggling to pay school bus bills after an inflation- busting price hike, the Echo can reveal today.

School bus fares have risen by more than 13%this year, in Cardiff, to pounds 300, forcing some familieswithmore thanone child toset upcar shares for the new termwhich starts today.

Parents say they have no choice but to pay the fares on contracted council services and described the hike as an added burden on their finances, alreadyhit byrising fuel and food bills in the current credit crunch. Campaigners for lower taxes, the Taxpayers' Alliance, have branded the rise as "shocking".

Cardiff council says the rise is the first in three years and was introduced to cover increasing costs.

The price rise which affects families across the city has led Reg Deacon, 60, from St Fagans, and his neighbours to call for a change in the way school transport is funded.

"I don't mind paying a fair price for my son to travel to school," said Reg.

"But I do believethat the parentswho pay for transport are footing the bill for those who don't.

"My son travels to Bishop of Llandaff Church inWales High School on a 69-seater bus. He is one of just a fewpupilswho havetopay.Arise like this which is higher than inflation is just another burden on families already struggling in the current credit crunch."

Pupils are entitled to free school transport if they are under eight years old and live more than twomiles from the nearest school or are over eight and living more than three miles from the nearest school.

Pupils who do not qualify for free transport may still be able to use school bus servicesbypaying a fareor a fee. The contracted service, which provides places for children eligible for free school transport, also provides spare spaces at a fee. Last year pupils could pay pounds 88 per termbut that has now increased to pounds 100 per term.

Taxpayers' Alliance spokesman Matthew Sinclair said: "This is a huge increase.

Council tax-payers across the country have seen their bills double in the past 10 years.

"To see that huge rise in tax bills, combined with an increase in the cost of basic services, is absolutely shocking.

Councils need to get a grip on spending to deliver better value for their constituents, particularly when so many are struggling with the economic downturn."

Consumer price inflation currentlystandsat 4.4% but is expected to peak at more than 5% in November.

For the other 1,700 pupils who travel on Cardiff council's school bus services and pay daily there has also been a fare increase.

The increases depend on individual journeys but on average pupils will be charged an extra 10p per journey.

moira.sharkey@mediawales.co.uk
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Sep 1, 2008
Words:465
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