Council rapped by ombudsman
County Hall failed to properly consider whether children could safely walk to school before deciding to scrap free buses to save money, a watchdog has found.
Leicestershire County Council has been found guilty of maladministration by the local government ombudsman.
The ombudsman investigated complaints from parents at Brook Vale High School and Groby Community College, in Groby, and Humphrey Perkins High School, in Barrow-upon-Soar.
Seven parents complained that the council either wrongly withdrew or failed to provide free home-to-school transport for their children by not considering the safety of each route before making its decision.
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Yesterday, ombudsman Dr Jane Martin upheld their complaints.
She said: "I believe the council's decisions were the result of a fundamentally flawed decision-making process, and this was maladministration."
County Hall initially told the parents in May 2011 that their children would be entitled to free home-to-school transport.
However, the authority reversed the decision in October 2011, when it said their home addresses were within three miles of their respective schools, so they did not qualify.
Six complainants appealed, disputing the safety of the route – in particular the lack of street lighting – but not the distance.
Dr Martin said the council only considered the width of the roads, crossing points and existence of pavements, but did not consider street lighting or the condition of one of the routes at different times of the year.
Dr Martin ordered the council to apologise to the parents and pay them each £100.
A county council spokesman said: "As a result of this investigation we have already reviewed and introduced a revised home to school transport walking route assessment policy so it is more robust and reflects the Department of Education and Skills Guidance from 2007. Two of the routes in question have been reassessed and remain as available walking routes. The ombudsman has confirmed that our revised policy and the reassessments undertaken fully comply with the guidance .
"We would like to take this opportunity to apologise to the parties concerned for any uncertainty that has been caused as a result of this."