Post-16 audit reignites the political row

The leader of Northumberland County Council has welcomed the findings of an audit into the way the authority dealt with the axing of free transport for post-16 students last summer.

The report, prepared by the chief internal auditor, found that the council’s decision making process ‘was correctly followed’ and although the decision of the Policy Board could have been called-in for reconsideration, it was not following a full council vote where 30 councillors were in favour of the call-in motion and 34 were against.

But Peter Jackson, leader of the Conservative opposition group, has urged the Labour administration to reverse the introduction of charges as it is having a major impact on families across the county, particularly in rural areas.

From last September, students going into sixth form or college had to pay full public transport costs or a standard charge of £600.

The detailed enquiry, which will be presented to the council’s audit committee later this month, looked into the reported cost of the extraordinary full council meeting, how this information was shared and the decision making relating to the review of the post-16 transport decision.

Council leader Grant Davey said: “I welcome the findings of this report, which has found our decision making process around the post-16 review was correct and sound.

“While we welcome frank and honest discussion, the behaviour of a small number who sought to make it a personal issue rather than a council issue was disappointing.”

Coun Jackson added: “Coun Davey is looking to play down the effects of this measure, but the people who have been affected by it will never forgive him and his party for the decision they made.”