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How missing short cut led to Pounds 1,000 bill for council

A local authority could have saved itself a two-year dispute and a Pounds 1,000 payout if its officials had read their own guide to woodland walks.

Jerry White, the local government ombudsman, has asked Coventry City Council to make an ex gratia payment after it prevented a boy from attending the closest school of his choice.

Officials said the boy should go to another school, claiming it was nearer. But they failed to measure the correct route because they did not know about it - even though it appeared in a council publication about woodland walks and was also the favoured route used by children in the area.

Mr White said: "I recognise that the council has to measure approximately 1,000 routes each year but I consider that the council's failure to identify a route used by so many children was maladministration."

He said that had the council measured the shortest available route to the school two years ago the boy would have entered it as his parents' first choice.

As it was he was sent to a boys' school, where he claimed he was bullied. An attempt to transfer him to the local co-educational school of his parents' choice failed because it was oversubscribed. An appeal also failed.

The boy has now moved to another school, where he is said to have settled well.

But his parents have reported that they had to buy a car to take him there.

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