U-turn over Kent student bus journeys

School bus
Image caption The cost of a Freedom Pass is set to double under new proposals

Kent County Council (KCC) has made a U-turn over plans to change provision of subsidised bus travel for children between the ages of 11 and 16.

The council previously announced the Freedom Pass - costing £100 - would only entitle pupils to £350 worth of travel from September.

Campaigners collected about 9,000 signatures against the plans.

The cost will now double to £200 and allow young people to make unlimited journeys until 19:00 on weekdays.

Trudy Dean, the Lib Dem leader on the council, said: "It's very much better than before, the budget proposal was hugely unfair for children living in rural areas who had a long distance to travel.

"The increase in cost for parents for many people would have been totally unaffordable. It's a much improved offer."

'Best we could do'

Emily Arnold organised the 9,000-signature petition against the plans.

She said the £350 worth of travel would have covered her children's journeys for about 17 weeks, with the remainder of the year costing her about £20 per week.

Councillor David Brazier, KCC's cabinet member for transport and the environment, said the earlier option had been "the best we could do with the money available".

He said: "We can make the saving that we need to to provide a scheme that will help young people get to school every day.

"We are desperately short of money, and it's a discretionary service which we could have abolished."

He said those children who received free school meals would pay half the cost of the Freedom Pass and looked-after children and young carers would get the pass free.

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