Thou­sands sign pe­ti­tion to save un­lim­ited free travel

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Freedom Pass - By Paul Fran­cis

Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor pfran­cis@thek­m­ Kent County Coun­cil is fac­ing mount­ing pres­sure to re­think its plans to cap the num­ber of jour­neys chil­dren can use their Free­dom Pass for.

More than 7,000 peo­ple have signed sep­a­rate pe­ti­tions call­ing for a change of plan.

Many par­ents have com­plained the £350 cap will run out within one term and they will be forced to pay hun­dreds of pounds to make up the dif­fer­ence.

Trans­port chiefs have hinted they are pre­pared to ex­am­ine new op­tions but have stressed KCC will still need to save £7mil­lion from the bud­get – more than half the sum it costs to cur­rently run the scheme.

Emily Arnold, a mum-of-two and a Shep­way Con­ser­va­tive coun­cil­lor, is be­hind a pe­ti­tion that has al­ready se­cured more than 6,000 sig­na­tures.

She will be send­ing her 10-year-old son to a sec­ondary school in ei­ther Folke­stone or Can­ter­bury next year while her daugh­ter, Alia, 13, con­tin­ues her stud­ies at Folke­stone School for Girls.

“Th­ese changes are go­ing to cost a lot of peo­ple a lot of money. It will cost me a £1,000 more. I ap­pre­ci­ate KCC needs to save money some­where but they need to look at this again. There are bet­ter op­tions,” she said.

One al­ter­na­tive would be to limit the use of the card to school jour­neys be­tween Mon­day to Fri­day, she added.

KCC says the charge for the pass for 11 to 16-year-olds will be pegged at £100 but that there will be a £350 limit stored on the card. Once that has been spent, pupils will have to pay for fur-

‘Th­ese changes are go­ing to cost a lot of peo­ple a lot of money’

ther jour­neys them­selves by top­ping up a smart card. There will also be a cap for those who use the post-16 pass but the costs of buy­ing it will be cut sig­nif­i­cantly from £520 to £100.

Cllr David Bra­zier (Con) said: “What is set in stone is the amount of money we have to save. That does not mean that ei­ther my­self or of­fi­cers or bus op­er­a­tors can­not think of other ways of achiev­ing it.”

Lim­it­ing the use of the pass just for school jour­neys would go against the prin­ci­ple of of­fer­ing a card that could be used for leisure as well as get­ting to and from school, he added.

A fi­nal de­ci­sion will be made at Fe­bru­ary’s bud­get meet­ing.

What do you think? Write to Ken­tish Ex­press, 34-36 North Street, Ash­ford TN24 8JR or email ken­tish­ex­press@thek­m­

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