CONTROVERSIAL plans to axe free transport to nurseries for children under five with additional needs have been halted following impassioned pleas from parents and politicians.
Dudley Council announced at Monday’s full council meeting that the unpopular proposal, which was earmarked to help save around £200,000, would be put on ice following a consultation.
Councillor David Vickers, deputy group leader of Dudley Conservatives, put forward an amendment to the plan to cut the service and leader of the Labour-controlled council, councillor Pete Lowe, said the controlling group had agreed to it.
Councillor Tim Crumpton, cabinet member for children’s services, said 179 responses and an 800-name petition had been received during the consultation, which finished on Monday March 2, and that the council would now continue talks with parents about how services can be delivered for children with special educational needs.
He said: “We know we need to look at the service in the wider context and this may involve remodelling it to ensure everyone has access to these much valued services.
“This doesn’t take away the fact that due to the continued cuts to our funding, we will need to make the savings, but by reviewing all aspects of the service we will be exploring to see how this can be achieved.”
The council had been proposing to remove the paid for transport service due to a reduction in funding.
Bosses said they were not legally required to provide the transport.
But Stourbridge Labour councillor Ian Marrey, whose disabled son Jude benefitted from the free transport service, said those needing to use the service should be have been involved in planning cost-cutting measures to see if they could find alternatives savings.
He welcomed the amendment and said: “I want to commend those people and parents who campaigned so fiercely against this proposal. This amendment is a victory for these people and these children.”
But he continued: “We embarrassed ourselves with this consultation and we should not allow that to happen again.”
Marc Carter, CEO of Brierley Hill based charity WeLoveCarers, praised the council for “listening to the views of parents and making the right decision”.
The charity, which supports thousands of unpaid carers across the borough, worked closely with parents to fight the proposed cut.
Mr Carter said after the meeting: “Most of the children who would have suffered from this cut, don’t even know about it yet. Many haven’t been diagnosed and many haven’t yet been born.
“This is one tiny little thing to make the lives of families with disabled children a little easier. It isn’t a luxury – even if the law doesn’t think it’s a right, we do.
“The big thing we’ve learned from this entire process is that genuine consultation with all those involved is the only way forward to a fair process.
“We are very aware there are going to many more fights in the future and we hope that with good communication the best outcomes can be reached.”