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15 January 2014, 06:00
Chloe Smith, MP for Norwich North, is supporting the campaign by students from Norwich City College’s student union against the County Council’s proposal to make students pay half as much again for their bus to college.
Councillors met yesterday (14th January) to discuss this proposal and others at Environment Transport and Development Overview and Scrutiny Panel.
Norfolk County Council is proposing to cut £2m from the 16-19 student bus subsidy. This could mean a 55% increase in ticket prices, seeing the main rate rise from £468 to £850 a year. Some families on low incomes are eligible for a reduced rate and they currently pay £351 per year, which the Council is proposing to increase to between £600 and £638.
The law has changed so that pupils who left school in summer 2013 now have to remain in education or training until they are 17 years old. Pupils that leave school in summer 2014 will have to stay in education or training until they are 18 years old. This means that transport will be necessary in Norfolk in order to have any choice of where and what to study.
Chloe also works closely with students and young people to get them into work through her Norwich For Jobs project.
Chloe said: “Students tell me that even a young apprentice who is earning is really worried about finding this kind of money from their wage. Many students aren’t earning. It’s a genuine cost of living problem proposed by Labour, which will hit the poorest students the hardest and deprive them of choice of where to study in Norfolk. That is a real impact on the future generation.
“Norfolk needs reliable and affordable public transport. Yes, it’s often a hard question of how to spend taxpayers’ limited money in the fairest way, but I don’t think this fares proposal is fair.
“Norfolk MPs have set out some other options which the County Council could take in order to live within its means. This is not about the incinerator, but about whether you value the younger generation’s needs in balance with other generations. The student union deserves praise for getting young people together across Norfolk on an important issue; young people do need to be involved in politics because without their voice, policies like this may be passed to their detriment.
“It would be irresponsible to duck the need for less spending overall at County Hall, however, because the money simply is not there. More spending, more borrowing and more debt do young people least good of all as it is only going to be this generation who must repay it – so responsible, fair and smart thinking is needed.”