Parliamentary sketch – A new campaign battle bus
If the economy is turning the corner, as the Chancellor suggests, then it is important that all have the opportunity to share the benefits. No group more so than our young people.
I believe it is much harder being young these days than it has been in living memory. For all the benefit of modern day gadgets and bling, the reality of the limited job and housing opportunities and the pressure of a more materialistic world our younger find themselves at a disadvantage to their predecessors. And that’s quite apart from the added costs of going on to further and higher education – policies I’ve voted against!
In rural areas like ours, young people have the double disadvantage of finding themselves more remote from their friends, college and their work place than their metropolitan counterparts. The costs of going out, getting to work or to college is usually more than double that of young people in urban areas. The options and choices are much more restricted too.
That’s why I’m urging the Government to introduce a new young person’s travel card – equivalent to the pensioner’s bus pass.
The proposal is to introduce statutory concessionary travel for 16-25 year olds in rural areas, administered using an electronic Oyster-style travel card. Participating bus and rail services would be assisted with the introduction of the technology.
Local authorities would administer what would be a Government funded scheme which could either offer a percentage discount beyond that already offered to young people or a completely free service (within a certain limited budget but which would allow young people to top up their travel card to extend its use.).
Many working young people are working for a reduced minimum wage – sometimes as little as £2.65 for apprentices, £3.65 for those aged 16-18 or £4.98 for those aged 18-20!
Using the Government’s definition of rural areas, it appears that the total cost could be as little as £25 million and up to £190 million, depending on which definition of “rural” you use and how generous the scheme is.
People are bound to ask, and how do you propose to pay for it Andrew? My answer is: from the Common Agricultural Policy! As all European Governments agree that less money should be spent propping up farmers and more used to support the wider rural economy I can think of nothing better.
Indeed, as I pointed out to the Prime Minister recently, if the Government agreed to put a cap on payments to the very largest and wealthiest of landowners – who frankly don’t need the money – this scheme alone could easily be paid for.
I’ll let you know how we get on.
Andrew George MP
MP for the West Cornwall &
Isles of Scilly constituency of St Ives
10th September 2013