Families of teenagers with special educational needs are going to be asked to foot some of Bexley Council’s bill for travel in the borough.

The council is planning to introduce a 10 per cent levy towards the cost of travel assistance for post-16s with special educational needs or disabilities – a service that is currently free.

It comes as the council faces an overspend of £655k for the travel assistance budget – leading to it proposing a contribution from September 2019.

The average cost of post-16 travel assistance in Bexley, at January 2018 was £4,861 per person per year,  one of the lowest per head charges in the region.

The council will still shell out 92 per cent for the cost of assisted travel – working out at £4,461, while a contribution of £400 would be needed to plug the rest of the costs.

Travel assistance can mean the use of designated school ‘pick-up points’, a personal travel assistance budget paid to parents and carers, independent travel training or council-run transport vehicles.

The report, set to be discussed by the cabinet next week, says: “This proposal goes some way to addressing the yearly deficit by partially reducing our financial commitment to non-statutory travel assistance costs.”

"Changing the policy to allow the council to levy a contribution for travel assistance from post-16 students will bring the London Borough of Bexley in line with the majority of other boroughs and counties.

“This will ensure the council continues to provide a service which facilitates access to education and training for young people beyond Year 11 and for those who wish to study at either a school sixth form or college.”

Despite additional cash and a total budget of £2.4m, the transport budget remains under “significant pressure”.

A spokesman for Bexley Council said: “We are committed to supporting learners in the borough with special educational needs and/or disabilities who want to continue studying after Year 11.

“We are proposing that we continue to pay 90 per cent of the cost of post-16 travel assistance even though we have no statutory duty to do this.  We are recommending that we introduce a flat rate charge of £400 which represents a 10 per cent contribution.

“Most of these students receive travel support payments and will have access to bursaries to support them in meeting the costs of their school or college placements. Families on low incomes will also qualify for financial support.  We will support such students in accessing the appropriate financial support to meet their travel needs.”

Councillor Wendy Perfect, shadow cabinet member for education and children’s services, said: “Over the last year, Labour councillors have warned that the Conservative’s corporate plan for Bexley will ensure that more services are delivered by volunteers and that the cost of services will be placed on our most vulnerable residents.

“The decision to impose a charge on young people with disabilities for their education travel costs is an attack on our most vulnerable residents. Other 16 and 17 year olds accessing education can travel for free by bus, while those with disabilities will have a £400 surcharge imposed on them by the local authority. 

“Bexley’s Conservatives made no mention of this policy in their manifesto at last month’s elections and have shown in the first decision of this administration, that their priority for the next four years will be to ensure the most vulnerable bear the brunt of their austerity politics.”