Local MP, Rory Stewart, has welcomed a decision by the Local Government Ombudsman which will see a number of families in the Ravenstonedale community reimbursed for school transport costs charged by Cumbria County Council. Following the closure of Ravenstonedale Endowed School earlier this year, the council charged them for transport to the nearest open primary school in Kirkby School. Rory Stewart, alongside local councillors, supported residents’ appeal to the LGO, arguing that County Council was avoiding their statutory obligations to provide free transport to pupils under 16 years of age, placing an unfair demand on parents to meet these substantial costs themselves. The Penrith and The Border MP had written on a number of occasions to the County Council, asking them to reconsider their ‘nonsensical’ position, but when the Council refused to do so, local residents were left with no choice but to take their case to the LGO as an independent adjudicator.
Rory Stewart said:
“I am so pleased the Ombudsman has sided with Ravenstonedale families, who should never have been made to pay these charges. I have been a vocal opponent of the council’s position on school transport in general, and I still believe it is deeply unfair to expect rural families to meet the cost of transport for children aged 16-18 years to attend school Sixth Form. But the council has a statutory obligation to provide free transport for students under the age of 16, and their attempts to charge Ravenstonedale families for transport costs to Kirkby Stephen primary school, when it had become the de facto nearest schools their children could attend, was nonsensical. This is a victory for local residents standing up for what is fair, and I hope the council will ensure that families are reimbursed as quickly as possible.”