Labour’s education spokesperson Chris Hipkins has called on National to explain why its plans for cuts to school transport have not been announced in its fiscal plan.
“Buried in the Pre-election Budget update is a $5m a year cut to school transport, starting in the middle of 2018,” says Hipkins. “This is despite school rolls forecast to rise in coming years, meaning per student funding for school transport will drop significantly under National.”
“New Zealanders need to hear the truth from National. What bus routes are they cutting? When? How many families will be affected? Why does none of this appear in their policy page or their Fiscal Plan?” asks Hipkins.
However, Ministry Head of Education Infrastructure Services Kim Shannon says no changes have been made to school transport policy or eligibility criteria for assistance. She also says no reviews of either are planned.
“In Budget 2015 an additional $3 million was invested over four years (as part of the School Transport Operational Efficiencies programme) to improve our transport operations and make them more efficient. Savings from that investment were budgeted at that time at $22 million over the four years – a net saving of $19 million dollars. Surpluses above those budgeted were generated in the first two years and we expect to declare a surplus again later this year.”
Shannon says the savings are achieved predominantly from improved procurement processes that generated better supplier pricing and improved bus route design using new technology developed specifically for that purpose.
“This enables us, for example, to design bus routes for an area with six buses where we previously ran seven, still collecting all of the same students.”