UP to 1,800 students across North Yorkshire are facing a 33 per cent rise in what they pay to get to schools and colleges after councillors agreed controversial increases for over-16s.
Youngsters starting further education courses this September will have to pay £480 instead of the existing £360 for home to school transport as North Yorkshire County Council battles to cut costs in the face of Government budget cuts.
Parents and students had called on the council to think again.
Nearly 300 had replied to a consultation on the increases with 83 per cent objecting, many protesting that children will have no choice but to stay on at school until they are 18.
They also feared the increases were unfair, especially on people living in rural areas. Many were concerned that students would be less likely to stay on at school and more families would face financial hardship.
One parent said: “I am appalled that any charge is made for mandatory education. As with university charges this is the thin end of the wedge and a disincentive for families and students to add value to their lives and the country’s prosperity through education. It is a retrograde step. Do not do this.”
Another parent said: “This proposal is outrageous. £360 a year is enough, never mind more. What about reductions for families with more than one child at college?
"Now it is compulsory for over-16s to attend college or training this is an unfair charge. How are they supposed to get there? Pollute the atmosphere and clog up the roads travelling by car every day?”
But the increases were agreed by the council’s executive committee. Free transport will be provided for vulnerable groups and charges will be reduced by half for families on low incomes.
About £950,000 is currently spent subsidising school transport for the over-16s. The council said it needs to reduce that to £550,000 as part of across-the-board reductions in budgets of nearly £94 million by the Government.
Coun Arthur Barker, executive member for schools, said: “Most other authorities are making charges, many in excess of what we are proposing. We are working with schools and colleges to avoid increasing charges in the future.”
Further increases up to £600 could come next year if they cannot agree with schools and colleges to use subsidies and bursary funds.