Friday, 19 July 2013

Extending the Kent Freedom Pass

Kent Green Party wholly supports the petition to extend the Kent Freedom Pass to those staying in full-time education in the county beyond the age of 16(1). The Party agrees that, in light of the government’s requirement for youngsters to remain in education or training until they are 18, such an extension of the scheme is entirely warranted. The Green Party welcomes KCC’s decision to consider this requirement within its overall review of the Freedom Pass.

However, the Green Party has grave concerns about the likelihood of the extension and even the current arrangements, whereby the annual standard fee of £100 provides a pass for free bus travel for young people in academic years 7-11 (ages 11 to 16).

Green Party Kent County Councillor, Martin Whybrow, comments: “As this central government’s severe austerity drive brings ever deeper cuts to local government front-line services, the worry is that there will be no budget for extending the Freedom Pass and, indeed, there could be severe pressure on the current arrangement. Few would argue with the moral argument of this petition, signed by well over 10,000 local residents, that youngsters who are staying on at school until the age of 18 should be afforded the same dispensation as 11 to 16 year-olds. However, this is a prime example of the government not taking responsibility for its own policies, ruling that youngsters should stay in education or training but then not providing adequate funding to support such a policy(2).”

FURTHER INFORMATION: Martin Whybrow on 01303 269827 or 07787 124794. Contact address as above. Promoted by H.Dawe for Kent Green Party, both at 27 Audley Avenue, Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1XF. KENT GREEN NEWS, free ezine, is available by subscription at www.kentgreenparty.org

Notes:
1.      On 5th July, a petition of 10,098 signatures was submitted to Kent County Council stating: “As the school leaving age is being extended to 18, please can the Buss Freedom Pass also be extended to cover from 16 to 18 (19 would be better) so that parents do not have to pay through the nose to get their child to school?”

2.      There are currently 27,800 Freedom Pass holders and the projected cost to KCC is £12.5 million in 2013/14. Despite government policy relating to continued education and training up to 18 years, local authorities receive no government funding for post-16 learners.



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