Calls to delay decision to scrap discount bus travel card for young people

Plans to scrap a card offering discounted bus travel to young people in West Sussex should be delayed for a more in-depth analysis of the decision's impact, councillors have urged.

Thursday, 7th July 2016, 12:30 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 2:23 am
3 in 1 card west sussex SUS-160620-131518001

The 3in1 Card was introduced by West Sussex County Council in 2007 but since a £50 charge was brought in the number of users has dropped significantly.

As well as acting as a form of ID the card offers users cheaper bus travel and a range of discounts at selected attractions.

But due to budget pressures the county council has reviewed the scheme, which currently costs £1.13m, and has decided to scrap the card from the start of January 2017 with some mitigation measures.

However members of WSCC’s Environmental and Community Services Select Committee voted not to endorse the proposals at a meeting late last month.

The committee voted to support a motion stating that councillors remained ‘unconvinced scrapping the 3in1 Card was in the best interests of West Sussex residents’, and asked for more information on transitional arrangements and analysis of the effect of withdrawing the scheme.

However the cabinet member is not bound by the select committee’s recommendation.

Heidi Brunsdon (Con, Imberdown) argued that scrapping the card would affect middle-income families who were ‘just about making ends meet’.

She said: “Potentially the rug will be pulled from under them in December.”

Meanwhile she described mitigation measures in the committee report as ‘nothing but a lot of hot air’.

John Rogers (Con, Cissbury), vice-chairman of the committee, asked why they could not stretch the end date of the scheme until September 2017. He said: “Some of them [users] are not from privileged families. We do not want to see these 16 to 19-year-olds having to give up courses they started early.”

He asked why the county council had not been able to wrap up negotiations with the bus companies about a new offer for young people to mitigate for the loss of the 3in1 scheme. Officers explained that until the county council made a final decision on scraping the card, the bus operators ‘will not put their cards on the table’.

Mr Rogers replied: “That is an absolutely ridiculous situation.”

He also raised the future of the number 11 bus serving students at Worthing College.

Officers replied that the bus company was already talking to the college and while the service ran due to external funding arrangements, ‘it may happen to coincide with a decision about the 3in1 scheme’.

Michael Jones (Lab, Southgate and Crawley Central) said: “There’s still a lack of information about what the impact of ceasing the scheme will be.”

He thought the end date for the scheme was ‘entirely arbitrary and does not make sense’, and asked why the card was not being stopped at the end of the next academic year.

John O’Brien (Con, East Grinstead South and Ashurst Wood), cabinet member for highways and transport, told members that no decision had been made on the future of the card until the consultation finished.

Officers explained that the review of the discretionary card was taking place after changes to national legislation and context as well as financial pressures.

Proposals include bringing in targeted help for 16 to 19-year-olds on low incomes requiring bus travel costing around £70,000 a year, while also investigating transitional arrangements for pupils up to 16 from low income families who are card holders, attend their closest out of catchment school, and are not eligible for free travel under school transport policies.

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