The decision to scrap a scheme offering discounted bus travel to young people has been labelled ‘despicable’ by Labour county councillors.
West Sussex County Council will cease its 3in1 Card at the end of December this year, with financial help continuing for low income families.
The card was introduced in 2007, acts as a form of identification and offers discounts at selected leisure providers, but after a £50 charge was introduced take-up fell to around 6,000 out of a possible 116,000 students in West Sussex.
After a review of the scheme a public consultation was held, receiving more than 2,500 responses with 96 per cent choosing ‘keep the scheme as it is’ as their preferred first option.
This week Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central) said: “This announcement, after school terms have ended, and the council has already met, shows how the West Sussex Tories bury bad news.
“It is a despicable decision by the West Sussex Tories, ignoring both the select committee of councillors and 96 percent of public respondents who called on the council to retain the scheme.”
He argued that the decision showed the Tories had ‘little concern’ for hard-working families in West Sussex and the ‘tragically bad decision’ would affect thousands of families across the county.
Brian Quinn (Lab, Broadfield) added: “The withdrawal of the 3in1 card will hit the most vulnerable low income families.”
But John O’Brien (Con, East Grinstead South and Ashurst Wood), WSCC’s cabinet member for highways and transport, said: “This was a difficult decision to take but we are all living and working in one of the most financially challenging times local government has ever known. We are looking at everything we do. 3in1 Cards are a discretionary service used by only 5 per cent of eligible school children and college goers across our county.
“We have to look at the cost of running the overall scheme against the number of people who use it and the ever growing pressures on other areas of our work – especially across our children’s and adults’ services.”
He added: “We are taking steps to mitigate the loss of the 3in1 card for existing users when it expires.
“For families with lower incomes, we are arranging financial help if they attend the nearest school out of catchment and don’t qualify for free travel.
“For families with higher incomes, we are doing everything we can with commercial bus operators to come up with appropriate solutions to lessen the impact on current 3in1 card users.”
Help will be available for pupils aged up to 16 years old who are existing 3in1 Card holders, attend the closest school outside their catchment area, and are not already eligible for free travel to school.
The county council will also provide financial support for 16-19 year olds from low income families, who use bus travel to attend full-time further education.
It is also working with the bus operators, schools, and colleges to discuss future travel concessions.
New and renewal cards will be available, at a reduced price, with an expiry date of December 31.
Further information will be sent to card holders during mid-August and will be available at www.your3in1.co.uk
Card holders with a card that runs after December 31 will get a partial refund (if applicable) in early 2017.
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