COUNCIL leaders are set to approve spending £25 million on school transport across Essex.

Essex County Council has a duty to provide free transport for thousands of pupils across the county.

In total 198 contracts, which transport 12,733 children, are due for renewal before the new school year starts in September.

It is expected to cost £25 million to fund the transport.

Cabinet members are being asked to give permission for 170 contracts to be extended for one year at a cost of £24 million. A further 28 will go out for tender.

The budget for 2019/20 is £7,453,990 for mainstream pupils and £17,401,071 for pupils with special educational needs.

A report, set to go before Cabinet, said: “There are 198 individual education transport contracts that are due to expire in July covering the full spectrum of primary, secondary and special school transport.

“Action must be taken in respect of all of these contracts to either extend or re-tender them so transport is provided for the relevant children from September.”

The report added: “The proposed procurement approach of extending the majority of existing contracts by 12 months is likely to deliver the best value in overall cost.”

The report also warned there had been an increased in demand for transport for children with special educational needs.

It added: “It is anticipated the growth in special education needs pupils from 2018/19 to 2020/21 will continue to increase over and above the rate of growth seen in the number of school children in Essex.

“As a result, cost pressures are being seen in the current financial year and are anticipated to continue across the medium term.”

The meeting takes place at County Hall in Chelmsford on Tuesday at 10am.