Conservative MPs have demanded an urgent rethink of the decision to cancel the Spare Seats scheme on school buses.

They say parents should have been consulted first and the withdrawal of the scheme is at odds with the county council's environmental ambitions.

The scheme allowed parents and carers who did not qualify for free home-to-school transport to pay for seats on buses where there was space.

In the 2022-23 academic year, parents could pay £244 per term for a seat where available, and if the journey was three miles (4.8km) or more.

But Oxfordshire County Council is withdrawing the scheme on eight routes, affecting more than 200 children from September.

The affected routes are:

2-WT05/2-WT08 WPS - Wheatley Park School

1-WA17 Warriner in Bloxham

2-ML05 Marlborough in Woodstock

3003 Icknield

3-WG02 Wood Green (Hailey)

4-KA01 King Alfreds (Uffington)

3-FC02 –Hanney/Charney Bassett

3-CA55 – St Joseph’s Carterton

The council says the services are no longer affordable but parents said they should have been asked in the first instance whether they were willing to contribute to keep the scheme going.

And Oxfordshire’s Conservative MPs Robert Courts, Victoria Prentis, David Johnston and John Howell issued a joint statement on the decision.

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The MPs said: “We are very concerned to hear about the County Council’s decision to withdraw the Spare Seats Scheme on some services.

"Our constituents have told us that they are worried about the impact it will have, with some considering reducing work hours or changing roles to allow them the time to drive their children to and from school.

"It is unacceptable that the county council have taken this decision without any consultation.

Bicester Advertiser:

"They claim that because they do not have a statutory duty to deliver the scheme they do not need to involve parents.”

The MPs added: “It also goes against the county council’s own environmental ambitions. They have promised to reduce car journeys by 1-in-4 this decade yet are forcing parents to drive their children to and from school.

"We are very concerned about children’s safety as they are expected to walk along busy roads not served by footpaths to get to school.

"We urge the council to re-think their decision as a matter of urgency.”

Oxfordshire County Council said it will continue to provide the home to school transport service for all eligible pupils.  

A spokesperson said: "We are reducing the number of spare seats in the scheme on certain contracts that need to be renewed, and where we currently have high levels of students travelling who are not entitled to free home to school transport.

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"The new contracts make it unaffordable for us to continue to provide the same number of spare seats.

"We are very mindful when making these difficult decisions of the impact on the parents who will have to make alternative arrangements; and on the environment and reducing carbon.

"But this has to be balanced against the council’s budget."


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This story was written by Miranda Norris, she joined the team in 2021 and covers news across Oxfordshire as well as news from Witney.

Get in touch with her by emailing: Or find her on Twitter: @Mirandajnorris

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