Date set for council vote about post-16 transport charges

There has been a political war of words ahead of a big decision about post-16 transport in Northumberland.

A proposal has been put forward by the county council’s Labour administration to end free transport for Sixth Form and college students. This would save £2.4million a year.

The authority’s policy board will meet next Thursday, May 29, when a decision will be made.

If the subsidy is scrapped, students will either pay the full cost where public transport is available or a standard charge of £600 per annum where the council continues to provide specific contracted school transport.

Those against the measure say it will unfairly impact teenagers living in rural areas.

Julie Pörksen, Liberal Democrat candidate for Berwick-upon-Tweed in the 2015 General Election, said: “Labour’s charges will cause real hardship for many, especially those in remote and rural areas, by raising the cost of living for families with teenagers.

“Given that the consultation only closed on Monday at 9am, the fact that they issued a report the next day means I can only presume that Labour never intended to listen to the consultation responses and over 900 people who signed the petition against the charges.”

A Labour group spokesman said: “We’ve seen the council budget shrink by a third with more to come and therefore it’s clear that we can’t fund a service which has grown by 320 per cent and a policy that means local schools and colleges lose an estimated £6.8million to the Tyne and Wear region.

“It’s time local Lib Dems acknowledged that the Government’s swingeing cuts are the reason we have to tackle post-16 transport.”