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Friday, 19 September 2014

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Cumbrian college students face losing free bus passes

Students at Lillyhall’s Lakes College could lose their free annual bus pass and face charges of £350 for a new one if Cumbria County Council pulls the plug on transport funding.

Students held crisis talks about the proposals last Thursday at the Hallwood Road campus.

The changes could come about as soon as September if the council goes ahead with the plans.

It could see all new applicants for annual bus passes stopped with a service provided until July 2012 for those already receiving support, or a charge of around £350 for a pass.

Currently 4,875 students aged 16 to 19 get transport support which costs the council £1.5 million a year.

But West Cumbrian students say the plans will have a severe effect on the college with many students unable to afford transport costs.

Health and social care student Ashton Lamb, 18, of The Beeches, Maryport, said: “I don’t earn £350 in a year to pay for a pass so it will mean I won’t be able to come to college any more.

“These plans will take away my right to an education and will have a massive knock-on effect. It could result in a college with no students in it.”

The college’s students have started a petition against the proposals which saw almost 100 signatures collected in only a few hours.

Jon Sibley, student governor at the college, said: “These proposals could have major effects for Lakes College so we have started a petition and alerted the students to the possible changes.

“We will be arranging meetings with local MPs for support and contacting local schools which will also be affected by the proposed cuts.”

Kathleen Armstrong, 16, of Harrington Road, Workington, is also a health and social care student.

She said: “This isn’t just about a bus pass, this is about our education. If the council go ahead with the plans there will be no students here in a few years time.

“And if the Government go ahead and stop the Education Maintenance Allowance then we will have no financial back-up whatsoever.”

Julia Morrison, corporate director of children's services at Cumbria County Council, said: “Traditionally we have been extremely generous in providing discretionary transport in Cumbria.

“But the budgetary challenges we now face means we have to look carefully at whether we can continue to subsidise many of these services.

“As well as saving money the proposed changes would also make the system fairer for all, as the current policies mean some pupils get benefits that others do not.

“Ending discretionary transport would bring us line with an increasing number of other local authorities but we’d like to hear what parents think before making any final decisions.”

 

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