The Department for Education (DfE) has allocated a further £30.1m to local transport authorities (LTAs) in England to pay for the ongoing provision of additional dedicated home-to-school transport.
In a change to previous methods, DfE has announced two tranches of the money at the same time. One is a top-up for the second half of the spring term. The other is for the first half of the summer term. The funding is used by LTAs to resource additional dedicated vehicles while capacity is limited on public bus services.
A comprehensive breakdown of monies allocated can be found in a spreadsheet on the gov.uk website. When all funds from the scheme’s five stages since the beginning of the autumn 2020 term are considered, DfE will have made available £128.6m by the end of the first half of the summer term.
46 of England’s 79 LTAs that have been paid directly by the scheme so far will receive top-up funding for the second half of the spring term. Payments for that period will total £9.8m. The Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) accounts for the largest share of that money, at £887,000. 33 other LTAs – including Transport for London (TfL), which remains by far the scheme’s largest overall recipient – will receive no top-up money during this period.
For the first half of the summer term, 68 LTAs will share £20.4m. During this period, TfL will be paid the most, at £2.7m. Isles of Scilly Council will gain the least, at £130. Isles of Scilly Council will also be the recipient of the smallest combined sum from all five tranches of the scheme announced thus far, at £4,135.
TfL’s £18.1m over the five periods will account for 14.1% of all monies allocated by DfE to date. GMCA will receive a total of £10.1m over the same interval, while three other LTAs – Kent County Council, the North East Combined Authority and the West Midlands Combined Authority – will each receive over £5m across the five tranches.
Some coach operators have questioned how LTAs have thus far allocated the DfE funding for additional dedicated home-to-school transport. Survey work by the Confederation of Passenger (CPT) has suggested that only 20% of it has found its way to the coach sector, CEO Graham Vidler told the Transport Select Committee when it examined the impact of COVID-19 on the coach sector on 24 March.
When called to give evidence to the Committee on the same day, Transport Minister Baroness Vere said that she had hoped that LTAs would put the additional DfE money “into coaches,” although she acknowledged that it is not for the government to tell those Authorities how to spend it.
At the hearing, Mr Vidler added that CPT had asked DfT “several times” which operators had benefitted from the funding. No response had been provided at that point. CPT has confirmed that as of 8 April, the requested information has still not been received from DfT.