Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Find Unlikely Ally in PM over Travel Fees

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Labour Find Unlikely Ally in PM over Travel Fees

Article excerpt

Byline: Brian Daniel North Northumberland reporter brian.daniel@ncjmedia.co.uk

COUNCIL leaders under fire over the introduction of transport charges for students are still paying "significant" subsidies for travel, government bosses have said.

Northumberland County Council has been criticised having decided to impose fees of up to PS600 for those in post-16 education.

Prime Minister David Cameron even joined the attacks on the authority in the House of Commons recently, when claiming "Labour costs us more."

Yet now, Department of Education insiders appear to have sympathised with the council in saying the PS600 charge, for students without access to public transport, "still represents a significant subsidy on the actual cost for the majority of students."

The stance was last night welcomed by Labour who claimed it represented an "embarrassing flip flop" for the Conservatives.

Yet the Tories insisted education bosses were not at odds with the Prime Minister and once again criticised Labour for their reintroduction of the charges. The council brought in charges, blaming cuts to its funding from the government, but faced an angry backlash from parents, pupils and opposition politicians. Mr Cameron joined in following a question from Berwick MP Sir Alan Beith, saying: "I certainly join him in agreeing that this is another example of the fact that Labour costs us more."

One county parent recently wrote to the prime minister voicing concerns over the introduction of the charges. A reply was sent to the parent by an official in the Department of Education which appears sympathetic to the council. It says: "I note that Northumberland County Council has changed the arrangements for 2014/15, although the PS600 charge for the provision of transport for those students without access to public transport still represents a significant subsidy on the actual cost for the majority of students. …

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