Wales

Cutting free bus for Wrexham faith schools 'discriminatory'

School bus in Wales
Image caption Councils across Wales have been running the rule over school transport amid budget pressures

Removing free transport for pupils at faith schools could be discriminatory, Wrexham councillors have told leaders.

The proposal would affect more than 400 youngsters, and could save more than £300,000 towards a £9m budget gap.

David A Bithell, lead member for transport, said the service was discretionary and should be reviewed.

But Liberal Democrat group leader Alun Jenkins said it would be unfair as there were no plans to end free transport to Welsh-medium schools.

Pupils in the Wrexham area are currently allowed free transport to a faith primary school more than two miles away or a faith secondary school more than three miles away, even if there are non-church schools nearer to them.

'Wipe out savings'

"What we're embarking on here is totally unacceptable," Mr Jenkins told a meeting of Wrexham's education scrutiny committee on Monday.

"If we can't discriminate against those that have chosen on the grounds of language, then we shouldn't discriminate against those that have chosen on grounds of faith either."

Labour group leader Dana Davies warned of the risk of legal challenges to any change "which could wipe out our savings straight away", according to the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Chris Wilkinson, head teacher of St Joseph's Catholic and Anglican High School, the only faith-based secondary school in the Wrexham area, has criticised the idea as "completely unjust".

In response, Wrexham's independent/Conservative ruling executive board stressed no decision had been taken as yet.

Mr Bithell said his department was facing "really difficult financial times", while council leader Mark Pritchard said accusations of discrimination were "unfair and untrue".

The majority of committee members voted the review should not be taken forward, but the idea will still be considered by the executive board at a later date.

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