Councillors may regain authority over school transport appeals, but final decision lies with Powys Cabinet
COUNCILLORS could once again be able to decide appeals on school transport issues.
But the decision to allow this to happen is ultimately in the gift of the Powys Liberal Democrat/Labour Cabinet.
This follows the success of a motion put forward by Conservative councillors at the council meeting on Thursday, July 20.
The motion built on one by Cllr Lucy Roberts that was debated and agreed by councillors in October last year.
This agreed to a greater flexibility in the appeals process, but Cllr Roberts said that: “nothing appears to have changed.”
Cllr Roberts said: “Most of appeals cases are where older siblings are receiving free transport to the school of their choice.
“Because of catchment changes or tightening of enforcement policy, families are being split apart.
“This is causing untold stress for parents and pupils, and it is easy to forget the support siblings provide for each other.”
Different school uniforms, after school activities and parent evenings in different location were “all so much more complicated” due to this issue explained Cllr Roberts.
Cllr Roberts said: “I call on members to support a motion to recommend to cabinet that school transport appeals are dealt with by a small cross-party group of councillors, supported by an officer who can guide members around any potential additional costs or issues that might arise from their decision.”
She believed this should also include outstanding appeals for 2023 admissions and have another look at appeals for this year which have already been turned down.
“If we don’t, we shouldn’t be surprised if we lose more children from the county, said Cllr Roberts.
Plaid Cymru group leader Cllr Elwyn Vaughan questioned the legality of the proposition.
Head of legal and monitoring officer, Clive Pinney said: “It’s a cabinet decision not one for council.”
“This asks cabinet to look at it again.”
“Cabinet will have to make the decision, are they prepared to agree that the appeals are dealt with by a group of councillors or something else.”
Deputy council leader, Labour’s Cllr Matthew Dorrance said: “I have sympathy, but I believe very strongly that our job as councillors is to set the policy and measure the performance.
“I don’t think it’s our role to get involved in operational issues and decide how policy is applied in individual cases.
“This motion blurs that distinction between councillors and council officers.”
The decision to remove councillors from the appeals process was taken by the previous Independent/Conservative cabinet in 2020.
Conservative group leader Cllr Aled Davies was deputy council leader and a cabinet member in that administration that took the decision.
Cllr Davies said: “There was a long history of inconsistency going back many generations.
“I do regret that decision.
“Now it’s policy, policy, policy without any softness around the edges.
“Having councillors involved in the decision would give it softness and when the case is so strong a chance for a slight diversion from strict policy.”
Councillor supported the motion with 28 voting for, 21 against and five abstentions.
By BBC LDRS
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