The Department of Education and skills, Value for Money Report into the School Transport scheme, published in March 2011, took into account recommendations from the McCarthy Report, published 16th July, 2009.
An Bord Snip Nua was formed after the banking crisis forced Ireland into an IMF bailout. The troika insisted that ways were found to reduce public spending and the The McCarthy Report was hatched. It recommended the following in relation to the school bus transport scheme;
E.1 Reduce allocation to school transport (p71, part 2)
The School Transport Scheme is a major transport operation which runs every school day over a large number routes carrying 135,000 pupils to primary and post primary schools….the average cost per pupil carried is estimated to be closer to €1,000 per annum. The charge for post-primary pupils transported will be €300 per annum from September 2009, while primary pupils will continue to be carried free of charge.
The Group considers that there should be a much greater contribution paid towards the cost of providing the school transport service. Also, charges should be introduced in respect of the primary school transport system. The Group recommends that a charge should be levied, at both primary and post-primary level, at a rate of 50% of the full economic cost of providing the service. This would be likely to be of the order of €500 per annum per child. (An exemption for social welfare recipients would continue to apply).
This charge could be increased over time to improve the rate of cost recovery for the service.
Overall, the Group estimates that the levying of school transport charges as outlined above could reduce the Exchequer subsidy by up to €29m annually. However, if a new maximum family charge were to apply, this level could reduce to about €25m.
There is also scope to change the eligibility conditions for the general scheme by providing transport only to the nearest schools instead of the nearest school of choice. The Group also concludes that consideration be given to an eligibility means test to determine those customers who can/should pay the full economic cost (€1,000), rather than only 50% of that cost.
(McCarthy Report, 2009)
So there appears a very real possibility that measures brought into appease the troika by Fianna Fáil and propagated by the Fine Gael and Labour government, if unchallenged, may lead to families being forced to pay up to a €1,000 per child for a seat on the school bus. Of course this may not be introduced yet, there is a General Election in 2016 after all. But who’s to say these charges won’t be increased after that election? After all, promises made during an election campaign can be broken, sure isn’t that what you tend to do in an election!