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Of all the proposals for County Hall cuts – and there are many – the idea of axing the subsidy for bus transport to college for thousands of Norfolk students has drawn more than its share of unfriendly fire.

MPs, college principals, parents, students and now county councillors have waded into the debate, armed with indignation and convinced that the move would put many young people off from staying in education.

Fears have also been voiced that more teenagers would end up not in education, employment or training (the inappropriately-acronymed Neet, with is actually a rather untidy concept), more would get into trouble with the police and youth unemployment would soar.

On top of all of this comes the fear that efforts to overcome Norfolk's historic – but improving – dearth of ambition would be drastically damaged.

It's hard to argue against any these points. But it's also hard to argue against Norfolk County Council's need to save money – �155m in total.


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The college bus subsidy costs the council �2.5m a year. And if it were dropped from the proposals, that money would have to be found from another part of the children's services budget, all of which has a direct or indirect impact on children.

All of this is cold and logical, of course. But I have a suspicion that all is not as it seems. And I am not alone.

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I have seen this same proposal come before the county council twice in the last three years. On the previous occasions, plans to axe the subsidy were abandoned.

There was a strong feeling then that the proposal was designed to attract attention – and deflect it away from other measures proposed in packages of cuts.

When it had done its job – and both times it resulted in student marches on County Hall – it was dropped, leaving leading councillors to revel in how they had 'listened' to their electors.

Labour county councillor Bert Bremner thinks the same scenario is playing out now, and deeply regrets not having visited a bookie to put a few quid on his gut feeling.

Apart from the odd quid on Grant Holt to score first in a 2-1 home win for Norwich City, I'm not a betting man. But, if I'm right about this, remember that you read it here first.

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