A ROW has broken out after a councillor disparaged a home-to-school transport campaign group.

A letter from Melinda Tilley dismissing the Oxon Schools Bus Action Group (OSBAG) was sent to councillors across Oxfordshire County Council on Thursday.

It was leaked to OSBAG the next day and members have expressed anger and disappointment at the remarks by the cabinet member for children, education and families.

OSBAG was set up in response to county council plans to stop subsidising free school transport for children whose parents choose not to send them to their nearest school, in a bid to save £2m.

The move has been controversial, with an original consultation shelved last year.

Mrs Tilley’s letter was sent on county council-headed paper and said: “Perhaps ‘OSBAG’ should listen more to what real parents say they will do (i.e. they will want to continue to send their children to what they consider to be the best school for their children, rather than to the one that the council will fund transport to) rather than to their own rhetoric which seems to be more about their own personal and, perhaps, political agenda.

“‘OSBAG’ may have hundreds of ‘Facebook friends’ but the three or four T-shirt-wearing ‘usual suspects’ who turned up at each of the 10 public meetings suggests that there is rather less behind the façade than has been suggested by generous media coverage.”

OSBAG co-ordinator Sue Moon told the Oxford Mail: “We were disappointed and shocked when we saw this letter. “There have been so many people who have expressed concern about the proposals. There has been a massive response.

“It is not just the work of three or four people. I think the fact that it is on county council paper makes it look like it reflects the view of the cabinet and has been approved by the council leader.

“I do attend wearing the campaign T-shirt, but I am there as a representative of the group. Throughout the meetings, nothing said was personal and this feels like a personal attack.”

Mrs Moon said up to 1,000 people attended the 10 public meetings about the subject. She added: “For parents to go to these, which are normally in the early evening, is quite difficult, so the fact that so many went shows the strength of opinion.”

The second consultation was due to end in December but was extended and will close today. Oxfordshire County Council has received more than 1,900 replies to the consultation.

OSBAG currently has more than 1,400 “likes” on Facebook and a petition against the plans contained more than 7,000 signatures.

The issue will be discussed on Tuesday, February 4.

Councillor Melinda Tilley would not comment further when approached by the Oxford Mail yesterday.