Deal to hike student bus fees passed

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COUNTY council chiefs have passed plans to almost double bus fees for students.

Lincolnshire County Council’s executive agreed to put up the annual travel costs for pupils going to colleges, with their contribution due to rise from £202 to £390.

However, members chose to bring the increases in across two years, starting from this September.

The hike has proved unpopular with parents and students, who say it is unfair on young people in a rural area.

One Spalding mum, who asked not to be named, said the price rises are piling on extra costs at a time when families’ finances are already tight.

The mum, whose daughter is set to go to New College Stamford, said: “It does seem grossly unfair. Everything in life is going up yet salaries are not. It is increasingly difficult to make ends meet.”

Spalding Grammar School sixth former Jessica Farhadian says this will further the feeling among students that the cuts have an unfair impact on younger people.

The bus fare rises come after the Government scrapped the Education Maintenance Allowance and paved the way for university tuition fees of up to £9,000.

She said: “First the Tories get rid of EMA, then they put the fees up and now they’re putting travel prices up.

“It already costs about £3 to get from Spalding to Whaplode Drove via bus. I think the students should boycott the buses in protest.

“You wouldn’t mind if it was actually a good service but I used to pay £3 for a 45 minute journey which normally takes 20 minutes.”

The county council argues it will still be subsiding the service by 60 per cent.

It will exempt specialist music and agricultural courses where pupils are forced to travel longer distances to attend and says that a Government support package, which replaces the EMA, will ease the burden for the area’s poorest students.

Coun Patricia Bradwell said: “In this difficult financial climate, the county council has to make substantial savings.

“However, we have listened to the consultation and are phasing in the increased charges over two years.

“The council’s total home to school/college transport budget, including statutory provision up to the age of 16, is £30m – a third of the total Children’s Services budget.

“We have been one of the lowest chargers for post-16 transport and even with these changes we will remain one of the lowest chargers compared to other councils who will be increasing their already higher rates.”