Norfolk’s college principals plan campaign against proposals to nearly double cost of college student travel pass
- Credit: Nick Butcher
Norfolk's college principals have held the first in a series of war councils to coordinate their opposition to plans to nearly double the cost of subsidised student travel passes.
Norfolk County Council is consulting on increasing the cost of transport for 16-19 year old students from £468 to up to £850 a year to help fill a projected £189m budget shortfall over the next three years.
Great Yarmouth College principal Penny Wycherley said they would collate data about youth unemployment and a lack of qualifications as well as case studies, and would lobby MPs and council leaders.
She said: 'Given that Great Yarmouth has high levels of youth unemployment, if you can't get them into college that's going to remain the same. They are going to remain unemployed for life.'
She said the college already spends about £100,000 to help under-write the costs of travel for students in financial need, and warned it would have to end other support for impoverished students, such as lunches, kit and travel to interviews, if the council made student travel more expensive.
Matt Redington, president of the college's student union, said he was working with student unions at three other colleges to organise a flash mob demonstration against the proposed cut.
He said: 'It would mean [students] would have to go to their local college. We have quite a few students from Stalham. If they took away the bus fare, they would have to go to the sixth form there, and it might not have the courses or anything they want to do in life. They are taking away the students' choice over their education.'
Councillors have targeted the subsidy for post-16 students several times in the past seven years, and the issue has seen students take to the streets in protest, sometimes helping to force u-turns or concessions.
Mick Castle, cabinet member for education and schools, said the council had to look at cuts to discretionary services to protect statutory services such as safeguarding children and supporting school improvement.
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He said: 'This isn't something we want to do but savings on this scale, coupled with the £140m that has already been saved in recent years, will inevitably mean some difficult decisions will need to be made about what we can and cannot afford.'
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