Bexley Council says it has drastically cut down on complaints related to school transport for children with special needs, as it works to rectify issues that led to it being slammed by the local government Ombudsman last year.

A report presented to members of the communities overview and scrutiny committee on Wednesday stated that no complaints to the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman have been submitted over 2019/2020.

It comes after the Ombudsman found eight cases of fault by the council the year prior when it came to providing school transport for special needs students.

The number of stage one appeals also dropped from 84 to six, with no stage two appeals reported so far this school year, compared to 27 the year before.

The authority made headlines last year when it was heavily criticised by the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman after it failed to make agreed improvements to the way it decides school transport applications for children with disabilities.

The Ombudsman issued a public report in October detailing the problems it found which impacted three families of children with disabilities.

Despite implementing some of the changes, the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) still expressed concerns about the council’s understanding of the statutory guidance and its role and duties in deciding transport applications.

The communities overview and scrutiny committee held a meeting later that month to specifically discuss the errors, with steps put in place to rectify them.

A council officer confirmed at this month’s meeting that the authority hadn’t had any LGO cases related to transport levelled at it this year.

“I thought this was very positive, there’s decreasing appeals and positive steps to work with parents and increase working with schools ,” Cllr Sybil Camsey said at the meeting.

Councillors were also told more steps have been put in place to improve the 2020 application process for transport.

These include the development of a new online application form in conjunction with Bexley Voice, and a series of coffee mornings for parents within special schools aimed at answering any questions which parents/carers may have on current or future travel assistance issues.