PARENTS of 30 children living in and around Darwen have been left 'high and dry' after the bus which took their offspring to school was cancelled at short notice.

Now they and their local councillors are up in arms and have appealed to Blackburn with Darwen Council to find the cash to reinstate the service to Canon Slade Secondary Academy just over the border in Bolton.

But its education boss Cllr Julie Gunn says she cannot subsidise one bus service to an out of area school without offering the same to other parents whose children are educated out of the borough.

Blackburn Private Hire announced it was cancelling the twice a day 981 service which took children from Darwen, Turton, Hoddlesden and Chapeltown to and from Canon Slade days before the end of term.

It will not run when school returns in the autumn.

The firm's director Paul said: "We have subsidised the service for far too long and it has cost us a lot of money."

Linda Dawson from Hoddlesden whose granddaughter Faye used the bus said: "It was very sudden.

"We have been left high and dry.

"Parents want to send their children to a Christian school and Canon Slade is the nearest."

West Pennine Tory councillor Julie Slater said: "We think the council can find £16,000 from somewhere to get these children to and from school safely.

"Around 30 children are affected."

Her ward colleague Cllr Jean Rigby said: "This is about getting children safely to and from school.

"Parents in the villages round here have sent their children to Canon Slade for many years.

"The council has a safeguarding budget. Surely it can use that to support the bus service in the short-term."

Fellow West Pennine Conservative Cllr Neil Slater caused a row at last month's Blackburn with Darwen Council Forum when he said: "If you can find an extra £400,000 to fund a prayer room we don't think it's not out of your ask to find £16,000 to send children safely to a Christian school."

Borough leader Cllr Phil Riley said the money for building costs and bus routes came from different ring-fenced cash pots and it was not 'civilised' to leave Muslim families burying their dead in Pleasington Cemetery with their stockinged feet in running water.

Cllr Gunn said: "I fully sympathise with parents. The school is not in a position to subsidise the bus.

"We cannot supplement one group of pupils without supporting other groups of pupils. We cannot be unfair."

The headteacher of Canon Slade was not available for comment.