LOCAL representatives Lee Waters MS, Nia Griffith MP and Cllr Rob James have again called upon Carmarthenshire Council to step in to restore school bus services across the county, after it has become clear that they have the power to do so.
Lee Waters MS and Nia Griffith MP stepped in to ask the UK Government to grant an exemption to the new regulations to allow parents and the council time to come up with a permanent solution in Carmarthenshire. A letter received by Lee Waters and Nia Griffith from the Secretary of State for Wales makes it clear that an exemption already exists that would allow Carmarthenshire to step in. The exemption was made available to all school transport procured by or on behalf of a school on 31 December last year.
Before these exemptions were granted school pupils in Carmarthenshire had seen many of their school bus routes cut, as a result of the introduction of regulations from the UK Government. The regulations, passed in 2000 and phased in, restricts the types of vehicles that bus companies could use to ensure that all vehicles can accept wheelchairs. The changes have caused a number of school bus routes to be axed with around 500 pupils directly affected. As a result children have been left with long walks to school in the dark and rain, or having to catch service buses that are more expensive and don’t provide an adequate and timely service.
The Labour Group on Carmarthenshire Council, led by Cllr Rob James have been pressuring the Plaid Cymru leadership to take initiative and commission replacement services since this exemption was announced, but the Plaid Cymru leadership have maintained that they aren’t able to do so.
Lee Waters MS said
“We have written to the UK Government to ask them to allow school bus services to keep running as before, but they’ve written back pointing out there’s nothing stopping Carmarthenshire Council from commissioning buses themselves.
“It would be simpler if the UK Government were to take action but there is a way that Plaid Cymru in Carmarthenshire could sort things out, but it’s clear they won’t act.
“Meanwhile, it’s the children who are suffering”
Nia Griffith MP said:
“It’s now crystal clear that Carmarthenshire Council could step in to restore the buses. The only thing holding them back is reluctance on the part of the Plaid Cymru leadership.
“I’m particularly frustrated because we’ve pointed out that the Council could solve this by contracting a service for weeks now, and they’ve refused to budge. Because of that, Carmarthenshire could now be at the back of the queue and pupils will be left stranded.”
Cllr Rob James said
“The children and families affected by the administration’s inaction deserve an apology. We have always known that it was the local Council that could step in and support pupils – it’s baffling that they are still refusing to do so.
“In the coming weeks we will be tabling a vote in the Council to restore lost school buses and I hope all Councillors will vote with their conscience.”