Cabinet Member: Councillor Gareth Thomas
To receive a report back from the Cabinet Member on the implementation of the Scrutiny Investigation’s recommendations
Councillor Linda Morgan left the room during the discussion.
a) Submitted - a report by the Cabinet Member on further progress made in relation to the to the recommendations of the Post-16 Education Transport Scrutiny Investigation. It was highlighted that the recommendations had been divided into three categories
- Immediate action
- Collaboration in the medium term with other services / partners to investigate the practicality of implementing the recommendations
- Not to consider these recommendations for the time being
It was reiterated that a number of the recommendations had been included in the new Transport Policy and that the remaining recommendations were subject to discussions. It was acknowledged that some of the discussions had been slow and that the greatest barrier had been holding discussions with the college, and resolving the 'flexible travel' problem. It was reported that a lot of work had been done in an attempt to resolve the above, however, this had not come into fruition yet. He accepted that the process was slow, along with any reprimand for this.
The Senior Schools Manager accepted that the formal response had been slow, but he reported that he had now received a letter (dated 16.5.16) from the College noting its wish to be an agent and that it was open to further discussions. It was added that these discussions were to commence on 21.6.16. It was reiterated that the College had noted in the letter that they were considering 'transferring the entire provision' therefore there was a need to discuss the content of the letter in detail. Reference was made to the fact that the letter was only from Meirion-Dwyfor, therefore, this needed full consideration also.
It was reported that there was an intention to establish a User Forum, however, there was a need to ensure that 'an offer was on the table' in the context of responding to the need to increase the flexibility without additional costs. It was highlighted that the Users Forum would include representatives from the College, Council Officers, Transport Providers and Students. It was hoped that the Forum would mature so that it would place emphasis on politicians to act.
It was noted that the monthly part-payments system had been established, however, in the context of students receiving late allowances to pay costs, this was not a priority for the Colleges. The intention of raising this during the discussions with the College was reiterated.
It was reported that 37% of travelling routes had a time restriction; 40% of routes were unrestricted and 23% were pure college buses. The greatest challenge was seeking a solution to the restricted travelling routes.
b) In response to the report, Councillor G Williams noted that what was available in England needed to be compared with what was available in Wales. He had ongoing concerns that Gwynedd Council had not assisted the County's households with the costs and fairness of their children's education.
c) During the discussion, the following observations were made:
· That the College was slow to accept responsibility for the students - travelling was not beneficial to children and the colleges did not give this enough consideration. It was suggested that the College should lead on the matter and seek a solution to the problem.
· The children and young people of Gwynedd must be placed at the centre of the service. It must be ensured that each child had equal opportunities.
· There was a need to solve the 'flexible ticket' problem and give all possible support to the county's children - they were our future.
· There was a need for a ticket that worked - an effective one.
· The well-being of the children had to be considered.
· There was a need to plead on the new Cabinet Member in the Assembly to look into this.
ch) In response to the above-mentioned observations, the Cabinet Member noted that the flexibility of the ticket was fundamental, but that the nature of the bus contracts varied. Therefore, there was a need to seek a solution to enable the 37% of restricted routes to be flexible without incurring additional costs for the Council.
It was noted that any information from the meeting with the College and from the Users Forum would be released to the Chairman of the Communities Scrutiny Committee once they would be held.
d) It was noted that the Council's recommendations had been implemented but that there was a lack of action from the external partners. The following was suggested:
• To re-negotiate the contracts with the bus companies when timely to do so.
• To consider looking at evidence of children who fall out of education due to the travelling / well-being aspect, which would then lead to a loss of income for the college - this business case could be drawn up.
RESOLVED to accept the report.
Great disappointment was expressed regarding the most obvious elements and the Committee wished to place pressure to get things in place buy September 2016.
It was noted that a Users Forum needed to be held soon and that a message needed to be sent to the new Minister seeking the same fairness for the children of Wales as the children of England.