THINK again – that was the message to North Yorkshire county councillors as a consultation over plans to scrap free school transport for special needs pupils draws to a close.

Parents could be forced to fork out hundreds of pounds to get their children to and from school if plans go ahead to axe the free travel service currently provided by North Yorkshire County Council.

The cost-cutting measure is part of the council’s bid to cut more than £18 million over the next five years from its education budget.

The authority currently provides the free transport service to 1,654 pupils across the county.

Public consultation on the controversial plans finishes at the end of the year.

Coun Keith Barnes, a member of North Yorkshire County Council’s young people’s overview and scrutiny committee, said: “It is a big concern and the council really needs to think again. We have been doing everything we can to oppose this. These are some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and these youngsters and their parents do not need the extra worry.

“It is desperately unfair and by cutting this the council will only make a saving of around £70,000.

“There also big problems with connectivity in rural areas in North Yorkshire, which this will only make worse.”

Cynthia Welbourn, the county’s corporate director of the children and young people’s service, said: “In the current financial climate, with our service required to find savings of more than £14 million over the next three years, it is right that we examine all the options available to us which will allow us to achieve those savings while at the same time maintaining the excellence of service in our core function of providing a first class education for our children and young people.”