Post-16 row rears its head

Julie Porksen

Julie Porksen

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A political row has broken out over the use of buses in north Northumberland as the thorny issue of post-16 transport rears its head again.

A would-be Lib Dem MP has criticised the county council’s Labour administration for making students stand on the bus to school, due to those over the age of 16 now having to use public transport.

But the county council has hit back saying there have been no reports of overcrowding, while the Labour group has criticised it as an attempt to ‘prey on the fears of parents and children’.

Julie Pörksen, who has been campaigning for free post-16 transport, said that some buses, including those serving the Wooler area, cannot provide seats for all regular passengers and students.

“Labour’s post-16 transport policy has been a disaster on so many fronts for Northumberland’s students,” she said.

“Not only do students have to pay for travel which should be free, some are being made to stand on the way to school when the school bus taking students under 16 years of age drives past half-empty.

“This is unfair on the students, existing passengers and the bus companies who are trying to run a good service on these routes.”

But a spokeswoman for the county council said: “We have spoken to all three bus operators who carry schoolchildren into schools from Wooler.

“They have all confirmed that there is sufficient seating space and that they haven’t experienced any issues of overcrowding on any of the public bus services from Wooler.”

A Labour group spokesman added: “The Lib Dems are really scraping the barrel as they desperately try to deflect away from their national problems.

“If there is a problem with bus transport overcrowding, why not try to resolve it non-politically?

“The truth is they desperately want to keep post-16 as an issue, preying on the fears of parents and children.

“It’s pretty desperate and cynical stuff which seems to be without foundation.”