Post-16 charges set to be abolished

Brought to you by the News Post Leader.
Brought to you by the News Post Leader.

Northumberland County Council’s plans to abolish post-16 transport charges for students have moved a step nearer.

The local authority’s cabinet recently gave the green light for a public consultation on removing them before new arrangements can be introduced ready for the start of the new school year in September.

Coun Wayne Daley, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council.

Coun Wayne Daley, deputy leader of Northumberland County Council.

Since 2014, students have been required to pay for their own travel if they can access their chosen learning provider via local bus and rail services.

For those teenagers who cannot access a viable public transport network, subject to eligibility criteria, arrangements are made for them to travel on school buses or taxis contracted by the council at a cost of £600 a year per student.

The current Conservative administration is committed to abolishing the charge for students meeting the eligibility criteria, with a one-off £50 fee being introduced to help cover costs.

It was not possible for the administration to bring in any changes to the post-16 transport policy ahead of the deadline for the 2017/18 school year, which came just days after the new council was formed.

Deputy council leader Wayne Daley, who is also cabinet member for children’s services, said: “One of our priorities when we formed this administration was to abolish this charge, which we felt was unfair and divisive.

“We’re delighted to have now reached the next stage in amending this policy, which will reintroduce free post-16 transport for many students.

“Delivering a good quality sustainable education in Northumberland is vital and part of that is about ensuring students can travel easily and cheaply to where they need to study.

“I’d encourage as many people as possible to take part in this consultation before the deadline on April 2.”

The cabinet also agreed an amendment proposed by the scrutiny committee to include in the new policy that ‘the final decision on the granting of school transport funding lies at the discretion of the county council’.

Go to http://bit.ly/2EEtfWi to take part in the post-16 transport changes consultation.