PARENTS of children who are no longer eligible for free school transport will be allowed to purchase spare seats, Hampshire County Council has said.

However, they may have to give them up mid-term if youngsters that do qualify apply for a


This comes after committee members voted against an attempt from opposition councillors at a special ‘call-in’ meeting to reconsider plans to scrap free transport for certain schoolchildren.

This includes eight-year-old pupils who live less than three miles from their school (previously two), and children who have not reached the compulsory school age of five.

These updates to the policy, previously branded “shameful”, would come into effect from the start of the 2019 academic year.

Transport will still continue for those who were eligible, but costs of up to £1,330 a year could arise for those who aren’t.

Member for education Cllr Keith Mans said: “It is my intention that all [parents of] children, provided they let us know [before a certain cut-off point], will be able to pay for a spare seat on existing transport.

“At this stage I cannot go any further than that.”

The Conservative councillor added: “These are not easy times we live in.

“It is always difficult when you’re trying to balance the books while also having to make decisions such as this.”

The cuts would save £1.54 million a year, a minor but significant amount as the authority tries to close an anticipated £140 million budget shortfall by April 2019.

As reported, other policy changes are also due to be introduced this September. These would see nursery children with special needs or disabilities refused the service, and teenagers older than 16 with the same needs forced to pay.

Liberal Democrat opposition councillor Jackie Porter said: “We decided to call in this meeting for reasons of clarity because the changes put forward do not match the policy.

“We wanted to make sure parents understood the changes.

“We think it will create a community divide between those who are entitled to the service and those who are not.

“I do think Hampshire County Council is making a big mistake and this policy will impact many families. But we would rather work to mitigate the impacts as much as possible.

“The policy, at the moment, has too many grey areas.”

In response, Cllr Mans agreed that an FAQ section will be created on the council’s website to answer questions, which Cllr Porter agreed would help.

At the meeting in Winchester, Fleet Infant School and Velmead Junior School parents also pleaded with councillors to keep an historical special arrangement of travel from Ancells Farm in Fleet.

Although only 2.5 miles away, the housing estate has received transport from the council as part of its home to school scheme since it was built.

However, councillors agreed this arrangement should now fall under the same guidance as the rest of the county.

Parent Laura Dobson said the move was “ill-though out” and discriminated against summer-born babies who may spend the whole of their first year at school before reaching compulsory age of five – then entitling them to free travel.

Fellow Fleet parent Eleanor Hayward previously said this decision would have a “detrimental effect” on the school and local area as many more cars will pour into the “narrow” town streets.

“We all rely on this service,” she added.

Nevertheless, councillors voted 11-7 in favour of keeping the already approved changes.