By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Families in Kent could be expected to fork out an extra £80 for a school bus pass at the start of the new school year.
Kent County Council (KCC) is proposing to raise the annual cost of a standard Kent Travel Saver pass by 20% in September 2022, rising from £370 to £450.
This would mark a fourfold increase from the 5% cap that was made by the county council and its Conservative administration in 2015.
KCC says the annual uplift is required to “balance the books” from April 2022 to April 2023, during “intensely challenging circumstances” caused by Covid.
A KCC spokesman says: “We need to find approximately £38 million next year, £100m over three years, from savings to balance the books.
“Delivering a savings programme of this magnitude will inevitably be hugely challenging and require some extremely tough decisions and choices.”
The low-income Kent Travel saver pass, which is available to families who use free school meals, could rise from £120 to £150 from September under the proposals.
Cllr Barry Lewis (Lab), KCC’s shadow cabinet member for transport, has voiced his concerns about the uplift.
He said: “Despite total denial of this problem, Tory austerity, which has blighted this country for the last 10 years, is hitting ordinary people in their pockets.”
The Kent Travel Saver is a discounted travel card for students in Years 7 to 11.
Pupils aged from 11 to 16 can use the pass to travel across Kent’s 12 districts, excluding Medway, between the hours of 6am to 7pm Monday to Friday.
Since 2015, KCC’s Conservative cabinet has governed the increases in cost to the Kent Travel Saver and its predecessor the Young Persons Travel Pass.
It is hoped a financial rise in 2022/23 will bring in £900,000 extra income, which could be spent on other council services or reduce existing loan debts.
No final decision on this proposal will be made until after January 21.
Last year, the county council allocated a budget of around £1.1billion towards adult social care, education, highways, environment and public health services.
Council taxes rose by around 5% in February 2021.