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Post-16 debate still rumbling

A petition of nearly 1,000 names, calling for a halt to Labour’s plan to axe free travel for post-16 students, went before the county council last week.

However, Northumberland County Council is still carrying out a consultation to ask for opinions on three options, as the service is currently costing £3.3million a year.

It could lead to the current scheme being withdrawn, a charge being brought in again or a limit placed on what the council will pay for, but the proposals have sparked heavy criticism from the Lib Dems and Tories.

Conservative Parliamentary Candidate, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, has spoken out against the plans, but insists it is not too late for people to have their say.

“This proposed change will mean that rural young people in particular will be discriminated against as many have to travel long distances,” she said.

“We should be encouraging learning to be easier to access, not making it more difficult.

“This is a tax on teenagers pure and simple so we should be fighting it with everything we have.”

A Labour group spokesman said: “Post-16 transport costs have soared, with a 323 per cent increase since the introduction of free post-16 travel, but roughly 50 per cent of students travelling choose to study outside Northumberland. That’s £28million lost to Northumberland’s educational establishments.

“In crude terms, in 2008, it was a Labour government that gave the county the capacity to make travel free and in 2014, it is a Con-Dem government that has slashed the council budget by a third.

“Our consultation is based on the reality of the budget situation and we think its a bit rich for the Liberals and Conservatives after their decision to break their promise on tuition fees.

“That has hit more than 3,000 Northumberland students with a massive debt yet they want to stop a realistic and fair attempt to encourage more students to study in Northumberland.

“Residents will make up their own mind about the cynical and hypocritical ploy.”

The consultation runs until 9am on Monday, May 19, and can be found in the school transport section of the county council’s website – www.northumberland.gov.uk

 

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