It is apparent that members of Uttlesford’s current administration are suggesting that residents of the district are disadvantaged because they pay more in Council Tax to the County Council than home owners in other parts of Essex. Could this be pointless propaganda or are they unaware that Council tax is levied equally across the county depending on property bandings rated from A to H with A being for the smallest property and H the largest. ECC’s portion of our tax bills is exactly the same for properties of a similar band wherever they are. It may be that some districts have a greater percentage of larger houses than others but the rate paid is exactly the same.
If this were not misleading enough members of that same administration pretend that despite the allegation that Uttlesford householders pay more, they get less for it and that passenger transport is something where residents of Uttlesford do not get their fair share. Nothing could be further from the truth, let me explain: -
Essex County Council spends £18.3 million annually on Concessionary bus passes that are for the benefit of the elderly or people with disabilities. That is spread equally across the County depending on need and so everyone who is eligible for a pass receives one wherever they live.
Local bus services receive subsidy to the tune of £9 million every year from Essex and that is used to support those services in rural areas where the routes are not commercially viable but are socially necessary. That money is used almost exclusively in rural areas and, unlike the larger towns or the areas abutting London Boroughs Uttlesford, being rural, receives a significant proportion of that funding.
Home to school transport is always a contentious matter but it is one that costs the taxpayers of Essex circa £30 million each year. More than 60% of that money is spent on providing transport for children with Special Educational Needs to ensure that they can attend the school that is most suitable for them. Within Uttlesford we have similar proportions of children requiring that support to every other District and because of the distances involved, that support for our most challenged children can cost as much as £200 per day. I hope that no one would argue that this is not an essential part of society’s role in ensuring that those young people get the best support possible.
Then we come to mainstream school transport where most contention lies but it should be emphasised that all children throughout the County, including Uttlesford, who are eligible for school transport are provided with it. Disregarding the criteria for eligibility I would confirm this year’s expenditure across the County for taxpayer funded mainstream school transport is; - Uttlesford £ 2.9 million, with the nearest cost in other similarly rural Districts, £ 1.53 million, £ 1.461 million, and £ 1.46 million respectively with a total Essex expenditure of £ 11.86 million.
Uttlesford accounts for roughly 8% of Essex’s population and yet home to school transport in the district not only costs almost twice that of any other district but a whopping 25% of the Counties’ budget – I would venture to suggest that the R4U propaganda is not just pointless but factually inaccurate.
Cabinet Member for Education and Skills