£1million earmarked for cheap bus travel scheme for young people in Milton Keynes

Thursday, February 6th, 2020 12:58pm

By David Tooley - Local Democracy Reporter @TooleyMedia

Young people have given the thumbs up to a £1 MILLION scheme to give them low cost public transport across the city.

The council’s cabinet this week approved the proposal as part of its council tax setting process, and it will now go for approval at the full council meeting later this month (February).

They’ve also committed to protect the concessionary fares scheme for over 65s using buses before 9.30am.

The new idea is to set up a two year trial of a scheme that will subsidise public transport for 16 to 21 year olds in the city.

During budget scrutiny meetings in the run up to the budget, councillors were concerned that the money would run out and the cabinet did not have a plan if that happened.

The cross-party budget and resources scrutiny committee want the cabinet to look ahead to decide what to do if the budget runs out before the two years are up.

This week the cabinet responded to the committee’s concerns saying that encouraging people out of their cars is a “headline priority”.

In a response to the scrutiny committee’s concerns they say there is a commitment that if the scheme proved “exceptionally popular and successful” they would “be minded” to find the extra money.

Toby Poyner and Roz Mascarenhas, of the MK Youth Cabinet (MKYCAB), have backed the proposal. They surveyed 252 young people and found that an overwhelming 85 per cent back the plan.

“As you may already know,” they wrote. “Public transport is a very big issue in MK” with concern over bus prices and lack of reliability.

They added: “We asked young people ‘if public transport was cheaper, would you use it more often?

“Probably unsurprisingly, the answer was a resounding yes, with just over 78 per cent of young people saying they would.”

But they also noted that just over one in five young people wouldn’t be attracted by a lower price.

They found that most people would be happy to pay £1 or less, with about one third being happy to pay between £1 and £5.

Speaking at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, bus campaigner and Green party member Alan Francis welcomed the plan. He turns up at so many meetings that council leader Pete Marland jokingly refers to him as “Cllr Francis.”

Mr Francis wondered “will there be the buses at the places and times for them to use cheap fares on? I can’t see anything about the number of buses.”

Cllr Marland (Lab, Wolverton), added that at the other end of the age range, the council would protect the concessionary fares scheme for over 65s people before 9.30am in MK.

It would have ended in April but Cllr Marland said the cabinet would not allow the “incongruous” situation to exist where the under 21s could get concessionary fares before 9.30am and the over 65s would not.

The cabinet agreed to propose adding £25,000 to the 2020-21 budget and for the item to be included in the “base budget” during 2021-22 to protect it in the future.