MP takes post-16 concerns to the Prime Minister

Sir Alan Beith

Sir Alan Beith

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Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith has raised a council’s decision to scrap free travel for post-16 students in Northumberland with the Prime Minister.

Sir Alan raised the matter during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons.

He asked: “Is the Prime Minister aware that 16 to 18-year-olds in Northumberland who may live 50 miles from a further education college or 20 miles from a high school are facing charges ranging from £600 a year to several thousand pounds a year to get their education, because the Labour-controlled council has reversed the support given by the previous Liberal Democrat administration?

“Will he deplore that decision and see what central Government can do to promote fair access to education for people in rural areas?”

Responding, Prime Minister David Cameron said: “My right hon. Friend makes an important point. As he knows, responsibility for transport for education and training rests with local authorities.

“Clearly, this local authority, now controlled by Labour, has made this decision. Of course we have introduced the £180 million bursary fund to support the most disadvantaged young people and perhaps that is something that his council and these families could make the most of. I certainly join him in agreeing that this is another example of the fact that Labour costs us more.”

Afterwards, Sir Alan commented: “We intend to continue this fight! It is so important that our young people can get to the courses they need to pursue their career ambitions.”

The council has decided to withdraw free post-16 travel from September to save £2.4 million.

But Lib Dem campaigner and Berwick candidate Julie Pörksen said: “You only really get one shot at school and college so for the council to sacrifice the opportunities for today’s 16-year-olds is unacceptable.

“I believe charging £600 discriminates against students and families living in rural and remote areas. If the Labour Council cannot be trusted to put the best interests of young Northumbrians first then we will have to try and get support for students by changing the law.”

Parents are expected to descend on County Hall tomorrow (Friday) to express their anger at the decision.

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