Youngsters from Tynedale wishing to stay on at school, or go to college, will have to pay £600 per year just to get there from September.
As expected, Northumberland County Council is scrapping free transport for sixth formers and college students, in order to save £2.4m per year.
That means youngsters starting in sixth form will have to pay £600 to travel on the same school bus they have used for free since the age of 9.
But the move has evoked Tory fury, as the opposition at County Hall has accused the ruling Labour group of imposing a tax on teenagers, which could put them off gaining qualifications.
“I cannot believe that Labour are so willing to threaten the life chances of our young people with this teenage tax of theirs,” said Coun. Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland Conservatives.
“This excessive tax on our students and their families will put many off furthering their education at all.”
Coun. Jackson said the intention appeared to be that the only college courses available to Northumberland students were those offered by Northumberland College at Ashington.
Coun. Jackson said: “This is an insult to the young people of this county.
“As we all know, Ashington is a most difficult place to access by public transport, if not impossible from some parts of Northumberland.
“The future prosperity of our county lies in the successful careers of our young people. Yet here we have a Labour-led council making the wrong choice.
“They are happy to protect the interests of a few at the top at the expense of those who live elsewhere.
“They plan to spend millions on a new county hall and a new leisure centre in Ashington, yet are not prepared to give all our young people an equal chance.”
Hexham’s Coun. Cath Homer said the “teenage tax” was a direct attack on local people and their children who are working hard to make ends meet.
She said: “We need to have young people able to access the best course in the best college to help them get the best chance in life.
“The Labour council has now imposed a take it or leave it plan which means only the richest will be able to have choice.
“This sends the wrong message to young people and could put the long term economic prosperity of the county at risk.
“I am very concerned that in years to come our young people will decide if Northumberland doesn’t value them, they will leave.”
The Tories were critical of the fact that the two Independent members of the council from Tynedale – Ovington’s Coun. Paul Kelly and Stocksfield’s Coun. Mrs Anne Dale – failed to back the Tory opposition to the proposal.
They pointed out that the £600 charge for school transport was the highest in the North-East.
County council leader Coun. Grant Davey said: “We do not make any cuts with relish. It is regrettable that we have to make any cuts, but we must balance our budget.
“Where we make cuts we will protect those in greatest need and continue to focus our resources on helping our county to grow. We will always do right by our communities.”
The new scheme will come into effect from September 1, but sixth formers already in the scheme will not be affected.
Special provision will be made to exempt the most vulnerable groups, such as students with special educational needs, or those from low income backgrounds, who attend their nearest appropriate school or college.
The average annual cost to the council of transport per student is currently in the region of £936 a year.
Northumberland is unusual among local authorities in that it still provides free transport for 16-19 year old students.
Durham County Council has already withdrawn its post-16 travel scheme and Cumbria County Council is also withdrawing the subsidy.
The number of Northumberland students claiming free transport has increased from 800 to 3,500 over the past five years, and 40 per cent of students travel to educational establishments outside the county.
Whilst the numbers of students claiming free travel has increased dramatically, the numbers of students from Northumberland attending post-16 education have remained static at around 7,000.
The council is now hoping that the withdrawal of free transport could lead to school sixth forms and colleges in Northumberland extending the range of courses they can offer.
Source – Hexham Courant, 09 June 2014
A teenage UKIP campaigner has been reprimanded for sharing his political views while standing as a youth councillor.
Joshua Gilroy, 16, has been told by North Tyneside Council officials that he cannot promote the right-wing political party while sitting on their young persons’ forum.
Yet the farming student claims his political views are a private matter and have never impaired his ability to be neutral when representing residents in the borough.
The row broke out after the Northumberland College pupil printed a statement in the party’s newsletter alongside a picture of himself asking for people to join UKIP’s youth wing. A spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said that in his piece he deliberately described himself as a “youth councillor and cabinet member” which triggered an investigation into the future of his position with the youth team.
A spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said: “Youth councillors are bound by a code of conduct and make a commitment to be politically neutral in their role.
“We recognise in their private lives they may wish to support or belong to a political party, however, in their position as a youth councillor they must not combine the two, and on this occasion the youth councillor did with his statement in a political leaflet.”
However, Joshua claims he has never been asked to sign anything relating to political neutrality and believes North Tyneside Council’s Labour administration is fearful of UKIP’s increasing popularity.
He said their neutrality guidelines should also be called into question considering youth council members are currently being asked to consider issues such as lowering the voting age from 18 to 16.
Joshua, from Camperdown near Newcastle, said: “I’m endorsing UKIP but it’s got nothing to do with the council – this is to do with my personal life. I’ve said what my title is in the newsletter but I’m not using it as propaganda.
“This is supposed to be about giving young people a say in the local council and now I feel that this isn’t the case.”
Joshua, who studies animal management and hopes to become a dairy farmer, joined UKIP in November 2013 alongside his mum and stepfather when all three decided to make a switch from Labour.
> Joshua, who studies animal management and hopes to become a dairy farmer – who would then no doubt be very happy to pocket his share of the European Union subsidies paid to farmers…
A spokesperson from the council added: “In the first instance, the youth councillor is issued with a reminder that as a youth councillor they must not use their role to promote a political party.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 05 April 2014