In 2012 the Conservatives on Suffolk County Council announced a U-turn on young persons’ travel. SCC will now be developing an Oyster-type card “to help provide reduced travel costs for education, training and work-related travel” for young people, because – as Leader Mark Bee acknowledged -travel is such a problem for young people in our rural county.
This announcement was fifteen months after the Conservative administration’s short-sighted, mean-minded and pennypinching abolition of Suffolk’s Explore young person’s travelcard (halfway through the academic year, let me remind you!) and exactly a year since the County Council received that 6,000 signature petition and the personal representations from a huge range of people (including some very vocal, determined – and polite – members of Woodbridge’s Just 42) telling them just this!
The possibility of a restoration is obviously a successful outcome for me, the Suffolk Lib Dems and all the young people and their families who have been lobbying for the restoration of this card since it was withdrawn. I have blogged, written and spoken publicly on how necessary this is if we are to support the badly-affected young people of rural Suffolk to support themselves.
When the Conservatives originally argued the necessity of the Explore cut on the grounds of ‘cost’, they were too shortsighted to recognise the costly damage it would cause to the educational, work and training prospects of a whole cohort of young people. This harm was clear to anyone who looked at the facts rather than the ideology of the New Strategic Direction. Indeed, in the middle of last year the Conservatives heard this information directly from me and other Lib Dem councillors, from schools and colleges, from parents and – most of all – from the young people affected.
We all told the Conservatives that scrapping the Explore card would – and did – cause huge problems to those who wanted to get an education and a job. But -as the Cabinet member for Roads and Transport so memorably said -”you can’t spend a pound more than once.”
In such circumstances, the wise idea is to choose carefully what you do spend your pounds on in the first place. This was the same Cabinet that agreed the expenditure of really quite a lot of pounds on Suffolk Circle.
Now that this decision has been sanctionedI urge the council to go beyond spin on this occasion and to roll out this new Oyster-type scheme as quickly as possible.
We we need to reverse, wherever possible, the harm they have caused and are continuing to cause to the next generation of Suffolk!
SCC’s eXplore cards were cancelled on 1 April 2011- halfway through the school and college year by an administration so personally disengaged from the people they serve that they didn’t see anything wrong in so doing!
Up till now young people have had this card to help with travel costs to post-16 education, to work and to find work, and for socialising. Explore cards were available free to students 16-19, and have enabled them to pay only half adult fares on buses and on many off-peak rail journeys.
The abolition of the card means there will be more cars on the road because many more young people will be driven or drive to school, college, employment etc. It will put more, less confident cyclists on busier roads. It will lead to less take-up of FE education because of difficulties of access. It will harm young people’s chances of going for job interviews and training.
In other words, this is “the most unkindest cut of all” – a retrograde step that threatens the very education and employment opportunities that our young people need in order to help us out of our current economic crisis. It also makes a mockery of our ‘Greenest county’ aspirations
The Explore card scheme was the brainchild of Suffolk County’s previous Liberal-Labour coalition, started in January 2005, and was designed to help tackle social isolation by enabling young people to travel cheaply from rural areas to the main urban centres in the county as well as within those urban centres. It is also designed to assist the local economy of Suffolk by enabling access for young people to retail and leisure opportunities. The scheme is also PASS approved and therefore qualifies as a Proof of Age card.
At April 1 the scheme had 52,555 card holders representing 55% of the eligible group. The Explore card was divided into two age ranges 5-15 (24,425 card holders ) and 16-19 (28,130 cardholders).
Please register and sign this petition NOW. We need to get 3,675 signatures to get this decision brought back to Council – and now have only 900 to go.
This shocking situation has been covered fully in April 11’s Evening Star