KCC pleads poverty over bus scheme
firstname.lastname@example.org County council leaders say they cannot afford to extend the hugely popular Freedom Pass to young people up to the age of 18.
The pass, which has proved a big hit since it was introduced, is currently only available to schoolchildren aged 11 to 16.
Now the council is under pressure to extend the scheme after more than 15,000 people signed a petition calling for a change.
The petition – one of the largest presented to the council – will trigger a debate by county councillors today (Thursday) at a full council meeting, when the petition is handed in.
It was started by Lynne Miller, from Deal, who says it is unfair that the council does not offer the same pass to sixthformers and college students.
Many parents and students are dismayed that the cost of a bus pass for those over 16 jumps from £100 to £520.
Although that is partly subsidised, it is four times more expensive than the existing Freedom Pass.
Mrs Miller said it was a burden many families could not afford. She has a son about to go into the sixth form at a Sandwich secondary school and a daughter already in the sixth form at a Canterbury school.
She said: “The cost of living is rising all the time and it is unfair on families struggling to meet costs.
“Either the government should give the council more money or the council should find the money itself. It is unfair and a big jump in costs once your children are over the age of 16.”
But Kent County Council’s Conservative leader, councillor Paul Carter, said the money was not there to extend the Freedom Pass.
He said: “We are a victim of our own success to a degree and are already the most generous authority in the country so far as the scheme is concerned.
“I do have enormous sympathy with parents, but we have got less money, not more money.”
He said the council might consider a scheme that extended the age range of the Freedom Pass, but it would have to involve a higher fee.
“We could do some research on the costs and charge everybody £250,’ he said. “My only reservation about that is that those who are over 16 can do casual part-time jobs as a way of supporting those costs.”
What do you think? Write to Kentish Express, 34-36 North Street, Ashford TN24 8JR, or email kentishexpress@ thekmgroup.co.uk