PARENTS will have to pay for school bus passes for their children as part of a council cost-cutting exercise.

Councillors have voted in favour of mums and dads being charged £7.25 a week from 2020 for secondary pupils to use public service buses to get to school.

Pupils who receive free school meals would be exempt, with a transport grant being introduced to cover their fares.

The changes will have to be approved by the council's policy and resources committee before being implemented.

Until now the council has provided free transport for pupils living over two miles from secondaries but officials have been working with Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT) on a review in a bid to reduce costs.

For several years the council has also been fully funding additional buses for St Columba’s High pupils from Braeside, Bow Farm and Larkfield catchment area because it is 'in the unique situation that there is no alternative route to the school by public transport'.

This policy has been repeatedly called into question by Tory councillor David Wilson, who sits on on the board of SPT.

He has argued it is unfair and penalises other families living elsewhere in the district.

Cllr Wilson said: "Port Glasgow High and St Stephen's High pupils who live under two miles from their community campus have to walk to school.

"The privilege given to St Columba's pupils wasn't available to them.

"On a health and fitness level there is no harm in pupils walking one and a half miles to school."

SNP councillor Christopher McEleny has criticised the shake-up of the school transport system.

He said: "Over the years, normally spearheaded by Conservative group leader David Wilson, there have been calls for the provision of free buses for those that live under two miles from St Columba’s to be scrapped.

"In these tough economic times, my group thought that it made sense to include any decision as part of the council's wider budget process and that, until then, no cuts to school transport should be made.

"Councillor Wilson and the administration disagreed."

Mr McEleny says the changes will 'make the school day more costly for many parents'.

He added: "Working with the independents on the council there is the potential that a grant may be introduced for service bus passes for families whose children are entitled to free school meals.

"However, for families who aren’t in receipt of free school meals many with more than one child will be facing costs close to £1,000 a year."

Under the recommendations approved this week by the education committee, there would in future be an annual review of the school transport policy.

The recommendations agreed by the education committee will now go in front of the local authority's policy and resources committee.