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Council under fire over Burnley pupil's taxi tab
LANCASHIRE County Council is to be asked how much it is spending on ferrying pupils to schools in Burnley.
Burnley MP Gordon Birtwistle has met with the schools minister to discuss problems with primary school places in the town, and he wants to know what the county council is spending on taxis for pupils.
Mr Birtwistle discussed the issue with David Laws after a spike in the birth rate caused an un-expectedly high number of four to five year olds starting school.
Lancashire County Council said that 92 per cent of applicants for school places in the borough had been offered one of their three preferred schools, and that there was no need to put in extra school places.
One local primary school, St John the Baptist, had offered to put on an extra reception class, but this idea was rejected by the county council.
Mr Birtwistle said: “David Laws told me he was horrified to hear what had been going on and the way in which the Conservative run county council had approached this issue.
“He and his officials will be asking the county council for the detailed figures about the costs they have been running up through having to pay for taxis.”
But the leader of the county council denied this was the case.
County Coun Geoff Driver said: “It’s unfortunate that Mr Birtwistle has sought to make a party political issue out of this very difficult and sensitive issue.
“I have been assured that Mr Laws did not use the words attributed to him by Mr Birtwistle.
“This is an under-standably sensitive issue for parents but officers have taken a sensible approach.
“The focus now should not be on politics but on helping children settle into their schools well, which the large majority of them no doubt already have.”
Lynn Mappin, Lancashire County Council's head of pupil places, said: “We understand that it can be upsetting for parents if they don't get the school that they want, but Burnley has ex-perienced a one-off peak in numbers of pupils starting at primary school this year, and things should go back to normal next year and for the foreseeable future.”