Tagged: public transport

Hartlepool – sustainable travel scheme

Hartlepool employees will be encouraged to ditch the car to get to work as part of a new green travel scheme.

Hartlepool Borough Council, which is leading the Government-funded sustainable travel scheme, says it will work with local firms to promote greater take up of cycling, walking and public transport.

Where car use is necessary, the scheme will encourage employees to share vehicles.

Sustainable travel officer Tony Davison, leading the scheme, said:

“In particular, the greater use of these forms of travel is crucial to us achieving our economic regeneration priorities for the town in a sustainable way by helping to ensure that developments do not adversely affect local roads in terms of congestion and safety.

“In addition, they can play a significant role when it comes to improving the health of local people by increasing their levels of physical activity,” said Tony who cycles 28-miles a day to work from Coxhoe and back.

Looking ahead the council says it is hopes to develop new cycle routes to key employment sites.

Full story : http://northstar.boards.net/thread/160/hartlepool-sustainable-travel-scheme

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‘Radioactive’ Man Found Fit For Work

A radioactive man, who has been told not to be in close proximity with other people, has been found ‘fit for work’ by government officials.

Peter Foley, 54, from Wakefield in West Yorkshire, was stripped of his sickness benefits by officials from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), despite being banned from standing in queues at his local Jobcentre.

Mr Foley is undergoing radioiodine treatment for an overactive thyroid, which means that his body gives off radiation that could be harmful to other people.

The condition has led to an alteration in Mr Foley’s brain chemistry, leading to depression, anxiety and involuntary tremors. Mr Foley says the experience of having his benefits removed had a detrimental effect on his health and worsened his symptoms.

Mr Foley told the Wakefield Express:

“I am amazed that the DWP decided I am fit for work, even though I am radioactive because of the radioiodine treatment I’m having.

“I’m not allowed near anyone, or on public transport and yet they say I should go to work. I wasn’t even allowed to stand in the queue at the job centre as I had to tell them about my condition. I had to fill in the paperwork in the doorway.

“I have been unable to work because of my overactive thyroid for around five months now.

“The condition has altered my brain chemistry and it gives me terrible tremors and severe depression and anxiety and this situation is just making it worse.”

Intervention from the Wakefield Express has resulted in Mr Foley’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) being reinstated.

His daughter Samantha Foley said: “I can’t thank the Express enough. I’m so pleased the DWP have changed their minds and given my dad the back pay he was owed.

“It was absolutely ridiculous and a huge worry for us.”

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “For someone to claim benefits they need to provide evidence to back up their claim.

“Mr Foley has now provided additional information and has been awarded Employment and Support Allowance.”

His ESA payments have been backdated.

Source – Welfare Weekly, 22 Mar 2015

http://www.welfareweekly.com/radioactive-man-found-fit-for-work/

Outdated Pacer trains WILL be scrapped – but civil servants objected to £250 million cost

Outdated and uncomfortable “Pacer” trains are to be axed from rail services in the North and replaced by 120 brand new vehicles, the Government has announced.

The decision to scrap the trains, which have been compared to cattle trucks, was made by Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin as he launched the contest inviting rail operators to bid to run the Northern and TransPennine Express franchises.

It brings to an end speculation that the vehicles could stay, or could be replaced by second hand trains from another part of the country.

But it also emerged that Mr McLoughlin faced a battle with civil servants – who argued that the £250 million cost of the new vehicles was poor value for money.

The Transport Secretary was forced to issue a “written directive”, a formal note confirming that he had been advised against requiring new trains but wanted his officials to go ahead anyway.

Mr McLoughlin told his staff that scrapping the Pacers was essential, warning: “I do not think that the continued use of these uncomfortable and low quality vehicles is compatible with our vision for economic growth and prosperity in the North.”

He also said that many Northern lines were unlikely to be electrified, so it was important to ensure new diesel trains were built because there is an industry-wide shortage of diesel vehicles.

It means the decision will now be scrutinised by a Commons spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, but while this could potentially criticise Mr McLoughlin it does not have the power to over-rule him.

Pacers were introduced in the 1980s as a short-term solution to a lack of rolling stock. Their future had been unclear until now, with senior Ministers including the Prime Minister promising they would go, while a series of official Government documents stated they could instead be refurbished and remain in use.

The Northern franchise operates local, commuter and rural services throughout the region, and a number of long distance services linking major cities.

As well as replacing the pacers with new trains, the winner of the franchise will be expected to modernise other vehicles on the route, double the number of services on may routes, provide more off-peak and Sunday services, invest at least £30 million to improve stations and introduce free Wi-Fi on all Northern trains by 2020 at the latest.

Bidders for the franchise are Abellio Northern Ltd, Arriva Rail North Limited and Govia Northern Limited. They have until 26 June to submit their plans.

The TransPeninne Express franchise provides longer distance intercity-type services, connecting the major cities of Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester, Hull, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Glasgow, as well as Manchester Airport.

Improvements the government wants the bidders to introduce include introducing extra capacity for passengers through more carriages and more services; providing earlier and later services and more services on Sundays; considering options for new services such as extending Newcastle services to Edinburgh, and introducing free Wi-Fi on all TransPennine Express trains by 2020 at the latest.

The bidders are First Trans Pennine Express Limited, Keolis Go-Ahead Limited and Stagecoach Trans Pennine Express Trains Limited, and they must submit their proposals by 28 May 2015.

Both new franchises are due to start operating in April 2016.

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 27 Feb 2015

Jobcentre staff under pressure to strip claimants of benefits for no good reason, North East MPs claim

Ministers have refused to apologise after MPs from across the North East highlighted the “cruel and inhumane” treatment of benefit claimants in the region.

Officials such as Jobcentre staff had been encouraged to strip claimants of benefits for no good reason, MPs said.

In a Commons debate led by Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah, MPs highlighted a series of wrong decisions and abuse of benefit claimants.

They included:

* Veterans injured in Afghanistan or Iraq stripped of benefits after they were told they were fit to work

* A Newcastle man stripped of benefits because he was accused of failing to seek work in the days after his father died

* A man in Bishop Auckland constituency who was a collecting a sick daughter from school and was accused of inventing a “fictional child”

 

South Shields MP Emma Lewell-Buck said her constituents had been “humiliated” by job centre staff.

She said:

“Constituents of mine have been refused a private room to discuss intimate personal or medial issues … the general attitude of staff is confrontational and sometimes just downright rude.”

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said Jobcentre staff provided a valuable service and took their role seriously – but they were under pressure to “sanction” as many people as possible, suspending their benefits on the grounds that they had broken rules or failed to prove they were seeking work.

The debate, attended by Labour MPs from across the North East, followed long-running complaints that benefit claimants are being sanctioned for no good reason.

> Very long-running complaints… its a shame it takes a looming General Election to get Labour’s collective arse into gear, and also leads the cynical to wonder whether the situation will just revert after the election (whoever wins).

But Work Minister Esther McVey infuriated MPs by refusing to discuss whether the criteria for imposing sanctions were fair, despite repeated requests for her to address this topic.

She denied her department deliberately inflames talk of “scroungers”, saying: “I have never put forward a story like that and I never would.”

Ms Onwurah recalled that she was largely bought up by her mother in a single-parent family in Newcastle which depended on benefits.

She said: “I am so glad she did not have to face the sort of vilification and abuse that benefit claimants face now.

She added: “I want to know what this government is doing to prevent the demonisation of those who are now claiming benefits.”

> That’s easy – nothing. Why would they, it’s their policies that encouraged it in the first place.

What we want to know now is what Labour would do, should they win the next election.

Newcastle East MP Nick Brown said one constituent had been told to go to an office in Felling, Gateshead. He walked to the office – because he had no money to pay for public transport – where he was given a telephone number to call.

People with disabilities, but who were judged to be fit to work, were being trained for jobs it was very unlikely they would be able to do, he said.

> There must be more unemployed forklift drivers in the North East than anywhere.  Qualifications that are basically useless because the majority of jobs requiring a forklift licence also specify a period of experience in a real situation, not a poxy do-it-or-get-sanctioned course.

And, in Sunderland at least, they send qualified and experienced forklift drivers on these courses too… Southwick Jobcentre advisers in particular were notorious for that.

southwick jc letter

 

Julie Elliott, MP for Sunderland Central, said Jobcentre staff were under pressure to sanction claimants.

She said:

They work hard and are put under enormous pressure. Staffing levels have diminished dramatically since 2010.

“We hear anecdotally about the pressures of informal targets on sanctions – we all know they are in place – from people who are too frightened to say something, so they tell us off the record.”

> Ah… definitely an election looming. Julie Elliott is my MP, but failed to respond to a complaint against Jobcentre staff that I made a couple of years ago.  That’s not the way to win votes, Jules – electorates are for the full term of the parliament, not just a general election.

Mrs Lewell-Buck accused the Government of encouraging the public “to think of claimants as spongers or skivers, so that working people struggling to get by will blame the unemployed man or woman next door”.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Jan 2015

Northumberland : Patients can’t access crucial care

A Seahouses patient awaiting an operation has challenged a health boss to get from his village to Hexham Hospital on public transport.

It comes after the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) introduced new national guidelines last month which mean strict criteria has to be met before a patient is eligible for transport.

One of many patients affected in the rural north of the county, Mr Vickers of Seahouses – who has surgery scheduled for a ruptured Achilles tendon – says he cannot physically reach his appointments on time without the service.

Journey times to his appointments at Hexham hospital by bus would take in access of four hours. Even then it is impossible to reach earlier appointments on time; or get back the same day following later appointments.

A taxi would cost him £120, plus £10 an hour waiting time, or £80 for a one-way trip.

In a letter CCG chief Dr Alistair Blair , Mr Vickers wrote:

“I challenge you to get from Seahouses to Hexham hospital and back to Seahouses in one day using pubic transport and keeping appointment times.”

“Your criteria is depriving me my human rights for proper medical treatment in Northumberland.”

Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Julie Pörksen said:

“I was shocked to hear about the impact the changes were having on ordinary people. It is completely unacceptable to expect older people and those who are not in the best of health to make arduous journeys.”

> Surely its unacceptable to expect anyone to have to do those sort of public transport journies ?

Ms Pörksen said she had spoken to one patient who was told to get a taxi to their appointment then reclaim the £100 fare from the hospital.

This is simply ridiculous,” she said. “There is an assumption that the high cost of a taxi fare could be met and that it would be OK to get that money back from the hospital.

“What patients need is to be able to use patient transport if a realistic and sympathetic assessment of their needs shows that it is justified.”

A spokeswoman for NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Groups said:

From 20 October 2014, we implemented the Department of Health’s national policy where all new patient transport bookings are subject to a short assessment. The assessment includes asking a few questions about how you would normally travel for day-to-day activities and if friends or family normally take you to your appointments.

“The purpose of this assessment is to make sure that the people who require ambulance services are prioritised and that the NHS is making the best use of the funding it has available. This means that we can free up emergency services as these appointments are planned using dedicated patient transport vehicles and means that patients don’t have to wait as long.

“We understand that this can be a frustrating experience and some people who have previously used this service may find that they are no longer entitled to patient transport. If this is the case, then the booking service is offering information and advice on alternative forms of transport.”

She added: “We have introduced a script at the end of the eligibility assessment that allows people to tell us if their journey into hospital is very different from their everyday trips and then affects their health. This will allow us to make sure that we are not disadvantaging those people who have to make long or complex journeys for their healthcare.

“People also now have the opportunity to tell us any other information that they think may influence the decision to get patient transport to their appointments.

“We are committed to ensuring that patients who live in rural areas are not disadvantaged by the implementation of the criteria, however, we still need to ensure that this is applied fairly across the region.”

If patients have any concerns, queries, or you are unhappy with a decision, they can contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by emailing northoftynepals@nhct.nhs.uk.

Source –  Berwick Advertiser, 29 Nov 2014

Northumberland : ‘Unfair’ transfer changes leaving patients stuck

A Seahouses man due to have an operation to repair a ruptured Achilles has been left stranded by new transport to healthcare rules.

Health bosses have changed the transport criteria, meaning some patients are expected to spend over five hours a day on public transport to attend hospital appointments.

Mr Vickers from Seahouses was informed of the change when he phoned to book transport to an appointment ahead of his operation on the 28th of this month.

He said:

“I would usually get an ambulance taxi but they told me I couldn’t anymore. The whole thing is ludicrous. Now I’m stuck, I can’t get to Hexham unless I get a private taxi.

“I was even more upset when they said after I have the operation, am in plaster and on crutches, I’m still not entitled to transport to get home.

“We had no idea anything was going to change. They said a new criteria had been brought in and asked all these ridiculous questions like are you blind, are you in a wheel chair, do you get housing benefit. I don’t know how many others have operations booked and don’t yet know about this.”

Berwick’s Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith described the new rules as “grotesquely unfair”.

He said:

“People have been told to get from Berwick to North Shields and back on a series of buses with no certainty their treatment will be finished in time for the last bus back to Berwick. Another constituent was told to take a two-and-a-half hour bus journey from north Northumberland to the Wansbeck Hospital for regular injections.

“Elderly widows are being told if they can use a local bus for a 10 minute journey into Berwick they should have no difficulty travelling on several buses to get to the Freeman.

“This is simply not acceptable and creates a huge barrier to healthcare for people in north Northumberland.”

Sir Alan said the situation was “even more insulting” to local people when they are being told they cannot go to Borders General Hospital which has a direct bus link from the centre of Berwick to the door of the hospital.

“This chaos all results from decisions of the Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group and the uninformed way the decisions are being implemented in rural areas,” he said.

It’s clear that people sitting behind desks in urban parts of south east Northumberland have no idea how difficult it is for people without a car or someone to drive them to get to distant medical appointments.

“I have raised this issue with the Chief Medical Officer of the Clinical Commissioning Group and I will be raising it in Parliament, where I have already been taking up the restrictions on cross-border access to health services.”

A spokesperson for the Northumberland CCG said:

From 20 October 2014, we implemented the Department of Health’s national policy where all new patient transport bookings are subject to a short assessment. The assessment includes asking a few questions about how you would normally travel for day-to-day activities and if friends or family normally take you to your appointments.

“The purpose of this assessment is to make sure that the people who require ambulance services are prioritised based on their health needs and that the NHS is making the best use of the funding it has available. We understand that this can be a frustrating experience and some people who have previously used this service may find that they are no longer entitled to patient transport.

“If this is the case, then the booking service is offering information and advice on alternative forms of transport.”

They added: “We are in the early stages of implementing this process and we would like to reassure everyone that we are continually reviewing issues and concerns raised to make sure a common sense approach is applied.

“We are committed to ensuring that patients who live in rural areas are not disadvantaged by the implementation of the criteria, however, we still need to ensure that this is applied fairly across the region.”

If patients have any concerns, queries, or you are unhappy with a decision, they can contact the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) via Freephone 0800 0320202, by text to 01670 511098 or by emailing northoftynepals@nhct.nhs.uk.

Source –  Berwick Advertiser, 06 November 2014

North East bus operators to introduce Oyster-style smart ticketing

North East bus passengers will soon be able to use Oyster-style tickets, travel operators have announced.

Britain’s biggest bus operators – including Newcastle-headquartered Go Ahead and Sunderland-based Arriva – have announced plans to launch London-style smart ticketing across England’s largest city regions.

The pledge by Stagecoach, First, Arriva, Go Ahead and National Express aims to deliver multi-operator smart ticketing to millions of bus customers across England next year.

Greater Manchester will be an early adopter of what is described as a “transformational initiative”, helping support the area’s wider growth plans.

The smart tickets will then be rolled out across Tyne and Wear, Merseyside, South Yorkshire and West Yorkshire along with the city regions of Nottingham, Leicester and Bristol.

The bus providers have spent several months finalising their plans and this work has included liaising with IT suppliers and the Department for Transport.

The announcement comes two weeks after North East councils took a step towards seizing control of the bus services, in a major shake-up of public transport – a move bitterly opposed by the bus companies.

Members of the North East Combined Authority voted unanimously for the Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) for the Tyne and Wear area.

If passed by an independent review board the proposals will signal a new era of London-style bus services across the region, in which travellers carry a pass similar to the capital’s Oyster card and councils decide on fares and when and how often services run.The bus companies said their own plans represent a multi-million pound investment in what is the biggest smart ticketing project in the UK’s history.

The technology will allow smaller bus operators to be included and provide a platform to extend the system to other modes, such as trams and trains.

In a joint statement, Stagecoach Group chief executive Martin Griffiths, First Group chief executive Tim O’Toole, Go Ahead chief executive David Brown, Arriva chief executive David Martin and National Express chief executive Dean Finch said:

“Millions of people in our biggest city regions will benefit from this transformational initiative in London-style smart ticketing. It will deliver an even bigger programme and wider benefit than the capital’s Oyster system.

“Bus operators share the aspirations of our city regions to become growing economic powerhouses and we know high quality public transport is an important part of making that happen.”

Bus operators also urged central and local Government to work with them to improve bus services across the country.”

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  04 Nov 2014

North East Councils one step closer to taking control of bus services in transport shake-up

Control over bus services looks set to be placed in the hands of councils in the biggest shake-up of public transport for a generation.

Members of the North East Combined Authority have voted unanimously for the Quality Contract Scheme (QCS) for the Tyne and Wear area.

The proposals – if passed by an independent review board – will signal a new era of London-style bus services where passengers carry a pass similar to the capital’s Oyster card and councils decide on fares and when/how often services run.

Tyne and Wear would also stand alone outside London operating a QCS system in the biggest change since buses were de-regulated in the 1980s.

North East bus companies who bitterly opposed the plans – which will see them compete for contracts say they will continue to fight.

Councillor Nick Forbes, regional transport lead for NECA, said:

We realise that the bus companies will find this decision disappointing. But leaders took their decision balancing the wider public interest and concluded that the voluntary arrangements proposed by the bus companies could simply not deliver our ambitions for better bus services.”

The proposals, put together by Nexus, came about after bus fares in the region rose by around 3% above RPI inflation each year since 1995.

> Not to mention all the routes the private companies, especially Stagecoach, axed. Paying more for less – it’s the British way.

Vicki Gilbert, chairwoman of Tyne and Wear Public Transport Users Group, welcomed the decision and said:

“Only a QCS will introduce any sort of democratic control over bus services, and allow decisions about services and fares to be made in the interests of all of the public as opposed to the interests of the bus operators.

“Only a QCS will place a limit on the near monopoly profits enjoyed by the bus operators. Only by making the bus operators compete for contracts will the cost of running buses come down to a level that we can afford.”

Kevin Carr, Chair of the North East Bus Operators’ Association (NEBOA), said:

We are very disappointed, but not surprised, at the decision to press on with the contract scheme.

“Nexus has convinced the leaders to take a huge gamble, needing an £80m contingency fund on top of £51m in guaranteed funding every year. It’s not the best way of securing vital bus services for communities in Tyne and Wear.

 “The latest Nexus proposals don’t offer a single extra bus or any expansion of the bus network. Bus passengers in Tyne and Wear deserve better than this scheme, which will lead to higher fares, worse bus services and higher council tax bills.”

Mr Carr added NEBOA would continue to oppose the plans at the review stage.

He said:

“Today’s decision is not final. We expect a far more rigorous examination of the bus contracts proposals by the independent review board.

“The board has a duty to determine whether these plans meet key legal, economic and value for money tests.

“We do not believe these tests have been met and we will make robust arguments to the review board to demonstrate this. Unless all of the tests have been met, the bus contracts scheme as it stands cannot be implemented.”

Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South, however, said the bus companies must accept the decision.

She said: “The bus operators should now respect this democratic decision and work to support passengers.”

Source – Newcastle Journal,  22 Oct 2014

Row over school transport charges in Northumberland reaches new heights

Councillors who have forced a debate on a decision to cut school transport have been told it could be “unlawful” to reverse the proposals.

The row over transport for post-16 students in Northumberland reached new heights, with Prime Minister David Cameron wading into the row and all three political parties in the county taking highly-charged potshots at each other.

The council’s Labour administration said a meeting on Friday to discuss the plans would cost £80,000 – a figure rubbished by their rivals – and blamed the coalition Government for forcing £130m of cuts on the authority.

It also emerged that councillors had been sent a letter from council’s lead executive director Steve Mason, in which he warns that a motion from the Conservative group to reverse the decision could leave the council open to a costly challenge in the courts.

Post-16 education transport charges were scrapped by the Liberal Democrats when they ran the council in 2008.

 But Labour recently approved plans for a £600 travel charge for students attending their nearest educational establishments where public transport is not available.

Students who can travel on public transport would have to pay the full cost of their journeys. Exemptions would apply to young people already in post-16 education, those with special educational needs and those from low-income backgrounds who attend their nearest school or college.

Council bosses say they were forced to bring back charges as they have to remove £32m from the authority’s budget in 2014/15 and a further £100m over the next three years.

But parents, pupils and politicians from rural areas of the county have accused the council of discriminating against families in such areas, with over 1,200 joining a Facebook group and a protest staged outside an Alnwick school last month.

They had planned a similar protest at a full council meeting earlier this month, only for the authority to cancel it citing lack of business – a move they said would save £18,000.

The council’s Tory opposition demanded an extraordinary meeting, with more than the five councillors required to force such a course of action signing an official request.

The extraordinary meeting was scheduled for Friday, with Labour bosses claiming it would cost £45,000.

Party leaders have now claimed the council’s accountants have put the cost to the taxpayer of Friday’s meeting at £80,000.

Council leader Grant Davey said: “The cost of the extraordinary meeting has skyrocketed and we’ve had to audit the cost.

“It now stands at nearly £9k each for each of the signatories of the motion put forward by their leader Coun (Peter) Jackson. Northumberland Tories have very serious questions to answer – how can they justify calling a meeting that will cost taxpayers £80k while this council has to find £130m in cuts over the next four years? This is a scandalous waste of taxpayers’ money.”

Coun Jackson hit back, saying: “It is absolute rubbish. The £45,000 was misleading and was a lie and how they can claim that it is even more than that is beyond me.”

His party had tabled a question to Friday’s meeting demanding a breakdown of the costs when they were put at £45,000.

Coun Jackson said he could not see how the meeting could cost more than £1,000 and added: “You have got to question the administration at County Hall, how they think it is going to cost them £80,000 to have a meeting with 67 people.”

The Journal has seen a confidential letter to members from the council’s lead executive director for corporate resources, Steve Mason, in which he warns of the risks of supporting the motion from the Tories, requesting the authority’s policy board reviews its decision to bring in charges.

In it, Mr Mason expresses “concern” about the passing or debating of the motion on the basis that decisions delegated to the policy board can only be taken by policy board and that it would be “unlawful” for full council to undermine that position.

His letter claims it would be “counterproductive” to discuss a matter the policy board has already determined as reopening the matter “increases the risk of challenge against that decision in the courts.”

Mr Mason says: “I would ask then that you bear this advice in mind when considering and voting on the motion.”

Coun Jackson responded: “It is just another example of bullyboy tactics from the county council.

“We are convinced our motion is entirely legal. We are asking the Labour-run policy board to reconsider its decision. There is nothing illegal about that at all.”

Meanwhile, rumours that the headteacher of the Duchess’s Community High School in Alnwick, Maurice Hall, has been put on gardening leave having distributed literature produced by opponents of the transport charges, have been dismissed.

The Journal reported how Mr Hall had apologised to parents for his actions, while rumours abounded that he he had been put on gardening leave as a result. But school governor Ian Walker said Mr Hall is currently off work for personal reasons and said it was an “unfortunate coincidence” that the literature issue had come at the same time.

Source –  Newcastle Journal,  09 July 2014

Meeting called to debate Northumberland ‘teenage transport tax’

With pressure mounting to reverse a decision to axe free transport for students, Northumberland County Council has agreed to hold an extraordinary meeting in Morpeth next week.

 Angry parents and opponents of the Labour administration at county hall have been urging the county council to reverse its decision to reintroduce transport charges for students over the age of 16.

They say it discriminates against parents in the north and rural parts of the county and that the consultation was inadequate.

They have also been highly critical of county council leader Grant Davey for avoiding a meeting to raise the concerns.

But an emergency meeting has now been called. It will take place at County Hall in Morpeth on Friday at 9.30am.

The motion to be debated has been put forward by Conservative group leader Peter Jackson.

He is requesting the suspension of the decision and the introduction of a new consultation process.

Mr Jackson said: “The leader of the council Grant Davey can run but cannot hide from the electorate.

“He has been doing everything in his power to avoid public accountability. Labour have made a huge mistake with this teenage tax and we are asking them to revisit this decision which will be discussed at an extraordinary meeting of the council.”

But Mr Davey, leader of the council and the Labour group, accused the Tories of playing politics:

 “The extraordinary council meeting could end up costing the council tax payers over £40,000, which is a very expensive way to play gesture politics after their own government has raided Northumberland’s budget to the tune of £130m.

“It’s cynical, hypocritical and it goes to show that local Tories would rather spend than save money.”

Protestors met senior county council officers on Wednesday to express concern about the lack of engagement with the public.

Leading protestor Allison Joynson said: “Whilst I appreciate the officers taking the time to meet with us, and the fact that finally a dialogue has begun, it became quickly apparent that the Labour administration is not prepared to seriously consider revisiting this discriminatory policy.

“It was evident from the discussions that the council had no real appreciation of the huge impact on the people of Northumberland especially those from rural areas.”

The county council voted to scrap its free transport scheme for pupils over the age of 16 last month in a move which will save £2.4 million.

From September 1 students will pay the full cost where public transport is available, or £600 a year to travel on council contracted school transport.

Council bosses say they were forced to bring back charges as they have to remove £32m from the authority’s budget in 2014/15 and a further £100m over the next three years.

But furious parents in the rural north of the county say their children are being penalised for staying in education, and are calling on the administration to change its mind.

The pressure group opposing the plans has already staged a demonstration outside the Duchess Community High School in Alnwick and has circulated a petition demanding a rethink.

Source –  Berwick Advertiser,  05 July 2014