A HARDSHIP fund for Newport students affected by a three-fold hike in bus fees has been mooted by the city’s cabinet member for education.
Yesterday the Argus reported that students travelling to Ysgol Gyfun Gwynllyw in Pontypool must pay £347 a year for transport to sixth form, up from just £80 the previous year.
However, the Argus understands that by 2017, post-16 students will be expected to pay the full £600 per year for bus travel when a council subsidy ends.
In response, Councillor Debbie Wilcox said: “The council has had to make some difficult decisions in recent years, and as a former secondary school teacher I have our children’s educational welfare at the heart of my work every day.
“There is never a right time to increase prices, and we understand central austerity measures are causing hardships to our residents and pupils too.
“That is why I will oversee a phased implementation of this programme which means that the current level of subsidy is not removed in full until September 2017,” she said.
“I will also be looking at a hardship fund for those students who are most affected by the changes.”
In a statement, the council said it is “only fair” for all pupils to pay the same amount to access post-16 education and that an increase in costs “could cause financial hardship for some families”.
“This change in fees had to be made as part of Newport council’s requirement to save £25 million over three years, and was one of over 100 savings implemented for this financial year,” said the statement, citing a cut in funding from the UK Government handed down to Welsh Government.
“The council is committed to providing the best affordable services but could no longer continue to subsidise the school transport service by £91,000 a year, and even with these changes post-16 students will still be subsidised by around £42,000 a year,” said the statement.
All post-16 students who qualify for financial help with home-to-school transport can get a travel grant of £150 per academic year but must still pay £347 to cover the rest of the cost.
However the true cost as calculated by the council’s passenger transport team is up to £750.