Home to school transport and learning disability services targeted in Northamptonshire County Council savings

Further details were announced on savings at One Angel Square at the start of this week
Further details were announced on savings at One Angel Square at the start of this week

Home to school transport funding will be severely reduced from next year as the county council tries to balance its books.

Savings plans will also target better contract management of learning disabilities suppliers in the two most visible budget cuts for 2019/20.

Northamptonshire County Council announced yesterday morning its new ‘stabilisation plan’ to make £20m of savings for this financial year, and a further update on addressing the £35m unfunded deficit from the last financial year (2017/18).

But eyes are already being cast towards 2019/20 with the announcement that transport for school pupils will be hard hit.

But confusing council papers fail to reveal specific details of the cuts, perhaps leading to more questions than answers.

Some of the clearer proposals include consulting on whether to reduce the service for Sixth Form pupils, or if not, to increase the charges. That could potentially raise up to £300,000 in 19/20, and the service is not statutory.

There will also be a review on ‘suitable walking routes’ which could see the withdrawal of free transport on routes deemed safe to walk.

Paying for transport for children and young people in Northamptonshire comes at a significant cost to the council with an annual budget of roughly £17 million.

Meanwhile the details on savings in the learning disabilities sector appear to be more even more vague. The council states that its ‘current framework for providers is not fit for purpose as there is too much variation in individual package costs’.

It adds that the council and clinical commissioning group (CCG) jointly spend £11 million per annum with the same 15 providers and yet get very different prices for the same service.

This is ‘not an efficient use of public money’ according to the council, and up to £6 million could be saved each year if they ‘collaborate’.

The budget details are set to be discussed at next Tuesday’s cabinet meeting (October 9) at One Angel Square.