By Local Democracy Reporter Ciaran Duggan
Low income families with school children will not have to pay extra cash for a Kent school bus pass from September.
Kent County Council (KCC) has agreed to freeze the annual cost of the Kent Travel Saver for children on free school meals. This will not rise above £120.
It will benefit 1,800 pass holders as KCC has agreed to invest an extra £54,000 into the vital transport service from April 2022 to April 2023.
Kent’s Green councillors proposed the changes be made during a lively debate in a conference room at the Kent Showground in Maidstone yesterday (Feb 10).
Cllr Rich Lehman (Green), who proposed the freeze, said it would help the most vulnerable households as the country comes out of coronavirus.
He said: “These are people who have been hit hard by the removal of the £20 uplift in universal credit. Residents are also experiencing a major rise in food and energy bills.”
The Kent Travel Saver enables Kent children, aged 11 to 16, to travel on buses to schools in or out of the county. Parents and pupils can save up to 50% on the costs of travel.
Last month, KCC proposed to increase the cost of the discounted pass by an extra £30 for low-income households, rising from £120 to £150.
It comes at a time when the cost of living is growing significantly.
However, the Conservative administration did a u-turn yesterday as they agreed to cover the extra cost from some of their reserves. A total of £162,000 will be ring fenced for the next three years to cover the cost for low-income families, including £54,000 for the next financial year.
Meanwhile, the cost of the standard KCC Travel Saver pass will rise by 21% from £370 to £450 from September 2022 amid growing financial pressures faced by the authority.
KCC’s leader Roger Gough (Con) said “regrettably” the price was going up.
On freezing the pass for struggling families, he said: “We all agree that those on the lowest incomes and free school meals have been shielded.”
The Kent Travel Saver has been funded by KCC over the past 10 years at a cost of over £90million.
The pass is not widely provided by other local authorities in England.
It’s true other authorities don’t provide these sorts of bus passes because all kids under 18 travel free in London that was introduced by Ken Livingstone in 2007. Recently the Welsh Senedd bought in a trial in Newport for free bus travel for everyone. Kent is just the miserly branch of a miserly Government!