The number of pupils eligible for free school transport could be cut by more than 1000, in a bid by Falkirk Council to save money.
The cash-strapped local authority is asking permission to look at increasing the distance at which children are eligible for free transport to school.
At the moment, free transport is provided for pupils up to eight years old who live more than one mile from school and to all pupils aged eight years and over who live more than two miles from school, via a safe walking route.
The council is proposing a consultation that would look at changing this.
The proposed change would be that only primary pupils who live more than two miles from school and secondary pupils who live more than three miles from school would be eligible.
Children who live in rural areas where there is no safe walking route to school will not be affected, regardless of distance.
On Tuesday, members of the council’s education, children and young people’s executive will be asked to agree to a formal statutory consultation beginning.
The report going to members of the executive states that it would help the council to bridge an estimated budget gap of around £67m that it faces over the next four years.
The council is also facing an overspend of around £750,000 for school transport alone for 2022/23, due to hugely increased costs when re-tendering bus contracts, which were impacted by rising inflation.
If the change goes ahead, 528 pupils at 24 primary schools would be affected and more than half of these pupils (298) will lose their entitlement.
The proposal would mean that the number of school bus services would be reduced as a result and no longer available to large numbers of pupils, even those paying fares.
Seven of the district’s high schools would be affected by the proposed change from two to three miles. At these schools, 2088 pupils are currently provided with free transport, of whom 1214 (58%) will remain entitled and 874 pupils (42%) will lose their entitlement.
Transport to Bo’ness Academy and St Modan’s High School in Stirling will not be affected.
The report to councillors states that the council’s budget gap means that it has no choice but to make savings and warns that if this proposal is rejected, cuts will need to be made in other areas of the service.
It also points out that what is being offered is still above the minimum distance in the national guidance and will bring Falkirk Council into line with many other council areas.
The full report is available online and the council meeting to discuss the consultation will be livestreamed.
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country