Petition aiming to oppose travel plan

A petition has been launched against new transport proposals being considered in Northumberland.

At the beginning of the month the News Post Leader reported how consultation had begun by Northumberland County Council on next year’s budget, which includes a proposal to restrict transport provision for post-16 education and introduce a charge of £450 per student per year.

And now, Liberal Democrat campaigner Julie Pörksen has launched a petition – available at until February 10 – against the proposals.

Julie said: “I have had a really good response to my campaign.

“Most people are gobsmacked when I tell them Labour is planning to charge over 16s £450 for travelling to school or college.

“The school leaving age is rising to 18 so it is even more outrageous to charge students for accessing compulsory school and college.”

Councillors and senior staff from Northumberland County Council discussed the proposals around post-16 transport at a meeting last week, as part of the wider budget setting process.

Coun Ian Swithenbank, policy board member for streetcare and environment, said any changes to the current system will be subject to another period of public consultation.

“No final decisions have been made and we are still looking at a range of options for post-16 transport in the county,” he said.

“Unlike most councils, Northumberland County Council currently pays to transport children to the nearest establishment that does the course they want, regardless of distance and many children are transported out of the county to do this.

“Currently 3,600 students receive free travel.

“We now provide free travel for 51 per cent of post-16 students and the cost of this has risen to £3.3m in 2013-14.”

The proposals are part of the council’s medium term financial plan which estimates that Northumberland will need to make savings of more than £130m between 2014-2018, of which £32.5m will come in the next financial year.