CHILDREN whose parents are separated could be hit hard by a proposed change to a council’s school transport policy.

The alert comes as North Yorkshire County Council looks to cut its £2.4m annual overspend on ferrying pupils to and from schools with a series of changes, despite officers raising concerns they could lead to some schools becoming oversubscribed while the future of others would be threatened.

North Yorkshire County Council’s transport scrutiny committee is set to examine feedback received from a 60-day consultation and recommendations for a new school transport policy from September.

Proposed changes include to only provide mainstream school transport to children attending their catchment school or the nearest school to their home, rather than any school which is closer than the catchment school to their home.

An officers’ report to the committee states the option to move to “statutory minimum” transport provision was supported by 64 per cent of consultation respondents and would require a full investigation and a review of local provision.

It warns councillors parents’ choice of schools could be influenced by the transport policy, stating the changes may “result in oversubscription to a number schools whilst other smaller schools sustainability would be compromised”.

Other proposals include ending the free arrangement for pupils whose families can demonstrate a 50/50 spilt in where the child lives during the school week, as statutory guidance “does not place any duty on local authorities to provide assistance to a second home address”.

The officers’ report states its current policy results in the authority “paying for two seats in which one will always be empty”.

Councillor Mike Jordan, who was chairman of the scrutiny committee until swapping the Conservative Party for the Yorkshire Party last year, said the proposal would make life more difficult for children with divorced or separated parents.

Cllr Jordan told the committee: “It is bad enough for the children without them having to worry about how they are going to get to school or as a result of their parents splitting have to move school and split up with their friends.”

The authority is also looking to increase charges for children who are not eligible for free transport from £390 to £600 a year.

The officers’ report said there had been “mixed reaction” to the proposal would affect low income families.

Other cost-cutting recommendations the committee will consider include introducing an application process for school transport and charging £20 for replacement student bus passes, as in the year to November last year a total of 515 replacement passes were re-issued.