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£20m plan for taxi service for grammar school pupils discreetly abandoned

MINISTERS have quietly abandoned plans to spend millions of pounds on taxis for grammar school pupils following pressure from Labour.

The government has made a U-turn on the £20 million scheme for children receiving free school meals to be driven up to 30 miles every day to attend the nearest selective school.

But the cash earmarked for cabs has been returned to the Treasury rather than invested in schools, shadow education secretary Angela Rayner pointed out today.

The scheme, set to cost more than £5m a year and up to £5,000 a year per pupil, was first announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in the 2017 Budget.

Ms Rayner argued that the funds should be used to reverse Tory cuts to school transport for disadvantaged children. In 2015-16, £6m was taken off the school transport budget.

The reduction led to disabled teenagers losing the right to help with travel to sixth form or college, pupils being forced to change schools and families having to pay hundreds of pounds extra for transport.

The Local Government Ombudsman revealed at the time that it had received a 63 per cent increase in serious complaints relating to school transport.

In one case, a teenager with severe autism lost his transport allowance and was told that he should go to school by walking a mile through an unlit area with no footpath, boarding a train and then changing to a bus.

Ms Rayner said: “It tells you everything you need to know about the Tories’ real priorities.

“It is clearer than ever that only a Labour government will invest in all of our children and guarantee schools the resources they need.”

Lamiat Sabin is the Morning Star’s Parliamentary Reporter.

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