Low-income families with school-going children will be relieved to learn that they won’t have to pay extra money for a school bus pass from September.
Kent County Council (KCC) has agreed to freeze the annual Kent Travel Saver cost for children receiving free school meals. This will not exceed £120.
It will benefit 1,800 pass holders as KCC has agreed to invest an additional £54,000 in the vital transport service from April 2022 to April 2023.
Kent Green councilors proposed the changes during a heated debate in a conference room at the Kent Showground in Maidstone on Thursday.
Cllr Rich Lehman (Green), who proposed the freeze, said it would help the most vulnerable households as the country emerges from coronavirus.
He said: “These are people who have been hit hard by the removal of the £20 Universal Credit hike.
“Residents are also experiencing a significant increase in their food and energy bills.”
The Kent Travel Saver enables children in Kent, aged 11-16, to travel by bus to schools within or outside the county.
Parents and students can save up to 50% on travel costs.
Last month, KCC proposed to raise the cost of the discounted pass by an additional £30 for low-income households, from £120 to £150.
It comes at a time when the cost of living is rising dramatically.
However, the Conservative administration backtracked last week by agreeing to cover the extra costs from some of its reserves.
A total of £162,000 will be set aside for the next three years to cover the cost for low-income families, including £54,000 for the next financial year.
Meanwhile, the cost of the standard KCC Travel Saver pass will increase by 21% from £370 to £450 from September 2022, amid growing financial pressures facing the authority.
KCC chief Roger Gough (Con) said “unfortunately” the price was going up.
Regarding the pass freeze for struggling families, he said: ‘We all agree that those with the lowest incomes and free school meals have been protected.
The Kent Travel Saver has been funded by KCC over the past 10 years at a cost of over £90m.
The pass is not widely provided by other local authorities in England.