Home-to-school payments ‘must continue’ during closures: CPT

Ongoing home-to-school payments called for by CPT

Payments for home-to-school contracts must continue to be made by local authorities to operators while educational establishments are temporarily closed to most pupils, the Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) has said.

CPT made the call in the wake of the introduction of further restrictions across England, Scotland and Wales that involve school closures. The Confederation describes those wider measures as “a further blow to the coach industry,” adding that they will prevent any tours and day trips from running “until the spring.”

In addition, CPT has asked governments to ensure that additional support for businesses announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak is made available to coach operators.

On 5 January Mr Sunak announced a £4bn UK-wide package of property-based support for businesses in the leisure, hospitality and retail sectors. Payments will be based on rateable values, but there is again no confirmation that coach operators will be categorised under leisure across England, Scotland and Wales for the purpose of this stream. A £594m discretionary fund will be made available to help other impacted businesses.

Many operators found that obtaining money from earlier grant mechanisms was impossible. CPT says that distribution of the most recent package must not be “left to a postcode lottery of local authority (LA) discretion.”

During the first period of movement restrictions in 2020 when educational establishments were closed, analysis by routeone showed a wide variation in the level of ongoing payments made by LAs to operators of home-to-school contracts.

In some cases, operators received 100% of the value with no stipulation that drivers must not be subject to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. Others received much lower levels of reimbursement, prompting at least one operator to consider legal action to force full payments.

It is not yet known how school closures will affect the distribution of the £27m allocated by the Department for Education to pay for additional dedicated home-to-school services in England in the first half of the spring term.