CUMBRIA County Council (CCC) has made the decision to defer withdrawal of free public transport for children at denominational schools until next year.

Initially, the changes were due to come into effect at the beginning of the school year, but a council spokesman confirmed this would be delayed until January 1, 2021.

Among the schools affected is St Bernard’s Catholic High School in Barrow.

Alan Park, of Walney, whose son George will be starting at St Bernard’s next month, described the deferment as ‘good news’.

However, he said it would be better if the council would ‘scrap’ its plans altogether and return to offering free transport.

“The kids want to follow their faith and if parents can’t afford to send them to a faith school they are losing out,” he said.

“It [St Bernard’s] is the only faith school around.

“If they want to follow their faith, you can’t take it away from them.”

CCC initially informed Mr Park by letter that provision of free public transport to denominational schools was set to be withdrawn following a review.

The council also sent him an invoice for £170.

The letter said: “As a result of new regulations that came into effect at the beginning of this year, there are now constraints on certain vehicles relating to the amount of seats we can legally sell, which is 20 per cent of the total seats.

“If we are at capacity for this, we will not be able to offer a seat.”

The letter outlined certain exceptions, saying children between 11 and 16 years of age who lived between two and 15 miles from school and were from ‘low income groups’ would be entitled to transport assistance.

It is understood the changes to public transport provision for denominational schools will also affect schools in Whitehaven and Carlisle and will impact around 70 pupils.

A spokesman for the county council said: “The council is aware of concerns affecting a small number of families and will liaise directly with them to address these issues.”