Northumberland County Councillors today agreed to end free transport for students over the age of 16.
The move will save the authority £2.4m a year, whilst protecting students from low-income families and those with special needs.
However that will be little consolation for students from north Northumberland who plan to travel by train and bus to higher education. They now face having to pay the full cost where public transport is available or a standard charge of £600 a year for council contracted school transport.
The new scheme will come into effect from September 1. Current students already in the scheme will not be affected.
Berwick Liberal Democrat MP Sir Alan Beith said the council had demonstrated a “callous indifference” to education in rural communities.
He added: “This is an outrageous discrimination against students in the Berwick area and more remote parts of Northumberland.
“Instead of helping Northumberland’s young people to choose the right course for them, either at school or college, our Labour councillors have decreed that these young people will only be supported to stay at their nearest school or college, whatever the courses on offer, and for most some of these students they will also have to pay for transport.”
Council leader, Councillor Grant Davey said: “We do not make any cuts with relish. It is regrettable that we have to make any cuts but we must balance our budget. Where we make cuts we will protect those in greatest need and continue to focus our resources on helping our county to grow. We will always do right by our communities.”
The Policy Board also agreed to work actively in partnership with schools, colleges and other training providers to ensure that students’ access to Post-16 educational opportunities in their own locality are continuously improved and to monitor the impact of the new Post-16 policy on an on-going basis following its implementation.