We always welcome a Letter to the Editor to share with our readers – unsurprisingly they don’t always reflect the views of this publication. If you have something you’d like to share, get in touch and of course, your considered comments are welcome below. This from Luisa Hillard, East Cowes. Ed
Since the Conservative-led Cross Party Alliance released details of their Budget proposals there has been concern among parents in East and West Cowes regarding the school run for primary school children.
Pupils travelling between both towns
As the Isle of Wight Councillor for East Cowes, I am aware that a number of parents from Cowes use Holy Cross Catholic Primary School in East Cowes for faith reasons.
Meanwhile there are parents from East Cowes who have to take their primary school children to West Cowes, due to a shortage of local school places. Or children have been moved because parents feel that the local schools could not meet their child’s needs.
Driving to school (on the main roads) is a distance of 9.4 miles, which far exceeds the two mile criteria for free primary school transport.
The cost of the school run
However, the Floating Bridge means that parents can take a short-cut across the Medina River and this route falls below the two mile limit and therefore parents who must drive are forced to pay £5.80 per day for taking the car on the Bridge, or drive round at up to an hour return journey, twice per day.
However, with the Floating Bridge out of action this short-cut is not currently available and parents must therefore drive round 9.4 miles each way, twice a day – approx 37 miles per day. Or walk.
Costs for pedestrians
So, let’s take a look at pedestrians who walk to school, whether due to being environmentally conscious, unable to drive, or due to the prohibitive cost of driving.
The time is much the same. Two hours of your day gone. How are working parents to manage?
A few years ago pedestrians travelled for free on the Floating Bridge, so there was obviously some concern when the £0.40 return fare was introduced. And, although children continued to be free, their accompanying parent had to pay. This meant a charge of £0.80 per day, £4 per week.
Then the prices went up to £0.70 per return, with a weekly charge of £7.
£10 per week for parents
Now we have a Conservative proposal to raise pedestrian prices by up to an extra 50% and parents are starting to panic that they will soon be spending £2 per day, £10 per week.
That’s a cost of about £400 per year that each family needs to find, just to get their child to school. Many of these are families with young children where the main carer does not work.
Unfair on families
Whilst I understand that government cuts are threatening local services, I don’t accept an increase in charges for a service that the Council claims is already profitable. Or in the context of the new bridge paid for by grant funding, at no cost to the Council.
It therefore seems unfair to me that families should be financially penalised, let alone the inconvenience of an extended school run, due to no fault of their own.