Today, April 1, is a sad day for Suffolk. Not only has Jeremy Pembroke, Leader of Suffolk County Council resigned, but there has been another departure, one which, in truth, will affect far more people in Suffolk far more immediately. Today the Tory administration that Mr Pembroke has led for the last 6 years has seen off the Suffolk Explore card.
Any of the 28,130 post-16 year old cardholders, relying on their Explore card to get to school, college or work will find that from today it will not be valid, and that from today they may be paying double the amount for the same journey, making other arrangements, or staying at home.
In connection with the same administration’s cuts in subsidised transport services (many of which also start today) this is a huge blow to the young, the poor and the rural – and most particularly to the young, rural, poor.
Currently the scheme has 52,555 card holders representing 55% of the eligible group. The Explore card was divided into two age ranges 5-15 (24,425 card holders ) and 16-19 (28,130 cardholders).
The only thing wrong with this card was that Suffolk County Council’s administration identified cutting it as a means of saving money. A pretty safe move, if you’re not worried about social justice. After all, people can’t vote until they’re 18 – and by then they might have forgotten who was responsaible, or might not be voting in Suffolk!
This cut was made halfway through the school and college year. And who cares? Certainly not the administration who runs Suffolk County Council! They didn’t even do an Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) before they decided to abolish our Explore card because their pre-screening decided that :
there may be an adverse impact to the 15-19 age group but this is not unlawful discrimination as providing the scheme is not a statutory duty. Concluding: This function should not move to a full impact assessment as it is a discretionary activity and has been indentified as a budget saving proposal.
Can I mention that the press release notifying us of Mr Pembroke’s departure praises “his unquestioned commitment to protect the most vulnerable in society”.
Please continue signing the petition to save SCC’s eXplore cards We need to get 3,675 signatures to get this decision back to Council – and now have less than 1,000 to go.
The Explore card scheme was the brainchild of Suffolk County’s previous Liberal-Labour coalition, started in January 2005, and was designed to help tackle social isolation by enabling young people to travel cheaply from rural areas to the main urban centres in the county as well as within those urban centres. It is also designed to assist the local economy of Suffolk by enabling access for young people to retail and leisure opportunities. The scheme is also PASS approved and therefore qualifies as a Proof of Age card.
Currently the scheme has 52,555 card holders representing 55% of the eligible group. The Explore card is divided into two age ranges 5-15 (24,425 card holders ) and 16-19 (28,130 cardholders).
In Leicestershire a similar county council proposal for withdrawal of non-statutory bus services triggered an immediate EIA (unlike here in Suffolk) which concluded public consultation with all affected groups is essential (unlike here in Suffolk) , including special interest organisations,invited to comment publicly on the proposals to curtail non-statutory service provision (unlike here in Suffolk). Consultation documentation to be available by web, post (and large print on request). Once more, unlike here in Suffolk!