FORMAL consultation has begun into proposed changes to post-16 student transport.
Northumberland County Council has outlined three main options — withdrawing the scheme altogether, re-introducing charges, or limiting what the authority will pay for. People are also invited to put forward their own suggestions.
Policy Board Member for Streetcare and Environment Ian Swithenbank said: “We are looking at a range of options for the post-16 transport scheme and we want everyone to have the chance to give us their views before any decisions are made.
“However, even at this early stage we are committed to putting measures in place to protect some of our most vulnerable groups, such as students with special educational needs, as well as students from low income families.”
The consultation follows outcry over proposals to review provision, with the possibility of 16 to 19-year-olds having to pay up to £450 a year for travel.
Currently, the scheme provides free transport for post-16 students who live more than three miles from the nearest further education provider that offers their chosen course or similar.
However, the council says it is an unusual arrangement and of those authorities that responded to a Rural Access to Learning Group survey in 2012, it was the only one that still offered free transport to qualifying students.
Numbers using the scheme have increased from 800 to more than 3,500 in the last six years, costing the council £3.3million a year.
Consultation will run until 9am on Monday, May 19. For details visit www.northumberland.gov.uk/post16 or call 0845 600 6400.