Parents told to stop gripes about fees

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A council leader has been accused of an ‘appalling gaffe’ for telling people to stop complaining about student transport fees.

Northumberland County Council has scrapped free post-16 student transport, with a £600 annual charge introduced this month.

Now Council Leader Grant Davey has accused protesters of misleading people into believing the policy can be overturned by complaining.

“We’ve been working hard to help introduce this policy and believe it is unsettling to parents trying to plan for the future by suggesting that protesting will help overturn the decision,” he said.

“Councillors had an opportunity to call-in this decision and did not do so. That would have been the point where the policy could have been challenged.”

He said the council had researched other authorities’ policies and has no statutory responsibility to provide a free service.

He added: “Every complaint made takes up parents’ valuable time and our resources to deal with.

“Like every home in the county we have to balance our budget and make our money go as far as possible. This is a fact of life we all have to live with and no amount of complaining will change that.”

However, Coun David Bawn, for Morpeth North, said: “It is the protesters’ democratic right to continue to protest until such time as the council changes policy or an election affords them the opportunity to remove the current councillors.

“It is surprising that Coun Davey, who comes from a political party with a long and rich tradition of public protest does not appreciate this basic fact. This is an appalling further gaffe by Coun Davey.”