Parents of more than 1,000 north-east children will save on school transport, but it will leave a black hole in a council’s coffers.
New rules will be introduced next month on how school buses with more than 22 seats are regulated.
Aberdeenshire Council’s legal team said it could encounter problems if it keeps charging for pupils to use the buses once the vehicles no longer meet access requirements specified by the new rules.
To sidestep the problem, councillors have approved a recommendation to stop charging the parents of about 1,275 pupils annual fees of up to £179.40 for “privilege school transport”.
This will ensure the council meets legislation, said a report, but it will lose £165,000 annual income.
The report said the council only became aware of the issue in late September and needs to resolve it by next year.
It added: “It is estimated 121 coaches would require to be replaced by January 1 2020 in order to conform to the regulations. Clearly the costs involved in such vehicle acquisition would be extremely significant.
“Also it would be impracticable for operators to source that number of vehicles in the timescale available.”
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The decision to remove the bus fares for some parents was taken at the council education and children’s services committee yesterday.
At the meeting convener Gillian Owen said: “This is a challenging situation and the implications are pretty significant.”
Councillor Martin Ford said: “We must comply with the regulations so there is no alternative but to support the recommendations.
“We will now have to find some savings from elsewhere in the council’s budget.”
Councillors at the meeting also acknowledged concerns about Dunnottar Primary amid pleas from parents for a new building.
The school was given an overall suitability score of ‘poor’ in this year’s Suitability and Core Facts Report, which indicates a school has major problems.
Councillor Sarah Dickinson said: “As everybody knows, I am a long-standing advocate for a new Dunnottar Primary School. It now stands out as the only primary school in the region to be given a ‘C’ grade.
“When it comes to Dunnottar and the particular restrictions that the school has, I find it hard to see where changes can be made given the constraints of the building.”