Young people will have one more burden lifted from them under a future Labour government, after the party yesterday (April 12) announced a new policy granting free bus travel to under 25s.
The plan will benefit young people who are among the hardest hit by austerity and tend to be in lower-paid jobs. Labour estimates that it will save 13m people about £1,000 each year.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched the policy yesterday (April 12) at a sixth-form in Derby, where he told dozens of young people that they “deserve a break”.
“Nearly eight years of Tory austerity have hit their incomes, their chance to buy a house and their career opportunities,” he said. “Labour wants to help young people make the most out of life by investing in them, which is why today we are pledging the next Labour government will provide the funds to cover free bus travel for under 25s, to support them to travel to work, to study and to visit friends.”
“Our policy provides help where it is most needed,” Corbyn added. “On average, children, young people and households with children each have less disposable income than working age households without children. Young people also tend to be in lower paid, more insecure work, and they spend a higher proportion of their income on travel. Giving them free bus travel will make a huge difference to their lives.”
Municipal bus services
The Labour party has said the policy would be funded by money ring-fenced from Vehicle Excise Duty. A future Labour government would provide this funding to local authorities to cover free bus travel for under 25s if local authorities take back their bus services under municipal control.
Unite national officer for passenger transport Bobby Morton welcomed the new Labour policy, which he said could provide the right incentive for local authorities to return to running municipal bus services – which benefit all passengers as well as staff alike.
“It is no coincidence that the best-rated bus companies are all municipally run,” Morton said. “They also end up saving money – research from Transport for Quality of Life has shown that bringing buses back into public ownership could save a quarter of a billion pounds a year.”
Morton explained that because private companies run their services solely to maximise profit, “when they can cut corners they will, which leads to a reduced or poorer quality service.”
“On the other hand, municipal companies make their decisions on behalf of the passengers they serve,” he added. “The council-run bus companies are actually quite profitable and are able to reinvest those profits into making the service better, instead of being beholden to shareholders.”
What’s more, Morton noted, bus workers employed by municipal bus companies are all directly employed and “handsomely rewarded”.
“Municipal bus workers enjoy the best pay, terms and conditions in the entire industry.”
Hope for young people
Unite national officer with responsibility for young members Rhys McCarthy said Labour’s latest policy would be a much-needed boost for young people who’ve suffered under Tory governments.
“Young people have been sacrificed at the altar of the wealthy by this and the previous Tory-led governments – they’ve inherited a world in which owning a home, having a secure job with a decent pension, or finishing university without massive debt have all become virtually unattainable pipe dreams.
“Only the Labour party understands how hard young people have been hit by both austerity and a global financial crisis that blighted their future prospects from the outset. This latest policy on bus travel — coupled with other policies such as scrapping tuition fees, restoring maintenance grants and granting the vote to 16s and 17s – will go a long way towards giving young people the hope they now so desperately need.”
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey likewise praised Labour’s new policy.
“Great move by Labour,” he said. “Young people deserve a break after years of Tory austerity. Another excellent reason to vote Labour in May.”
Don’t forget to register to vote for the upcoming local elections on May 3 – the deadline to sign up is April 17.