School bus pass in Kent could cost £350
The cost of a bus travel pass used by thousands of young people to get to school is to increase by £60 to £350 under draft county council budget plans.
The 20% increase, if agreed, has been defended by council leader Paul Carter who said the scheme still represented good value.
The council planned to allow parents to make payments by monthly installments and the fee could be frozen for several years.
He said: “Things have been very tough on local government in recent years and many other councils are going down to just providing core services. I am pleased and proud that in Kent we have been able to maintain good services.
"We do need to increase revenue wherever we can and we are hoping to freeze the cost of the pass for a number of years. And we plan for parents to be able to pay monthly, which is something they have asked for.”
Despite the increase, he said KCC would still be heavily subsidising the scheme.
Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Cllr Rob Bird said he was concerned at the impact of the increase.
He said: “It is a big increase and we are talking to the administration to see how we can alleviate the costs for hard-pressed parents. Children from Kent do travel a long way to get to school and parents are incurring quite big costs to do so.”
According to budget papers, the 20% increase would save the council £800,000. The cost of the pass rose by £10 last year.
The pass has proved popular with parents and provides 11-to-16-year-olds unlimited access to the Kent public bus network from Monday to Friday between 6am and 7pm. Some bus operators have also extended the use of the pass, allowing it to be used at the weekend and evenings.
Some discounts are available, with a £100 charge for those on free school meals. Families who pay the standard fee for two children are eligible for free passes for other children.
The draft budget sets out proposals for a 5% hike in the council tax. Cllr Carter said KCC was not alone in deciding to increase the tax.
He added:“Most of the other authorities up and down the country are implementing the same increase. Irrespective of that, we have still had to deliver another £50m savings and we have found those savings without materially affecting frontline services.”