25 November 2006

Labour can win big in Brighton & Hove with popular social justice and green policies.

1. Free bus travel for under 16s.

I would like to see bus travel free for everyone but even I realise that this will have to wait until local government has a less regressive way of raising revenue.

Unfortunately councils that want to provide better services that benefit the poorest the most are hamstrung by the regressive Tory introduced council tax and by capping (and Labour have been too scared to change council tax for fear of losing the middle class and upper class voters that are made so important under our undemocratic electoral system).

However free bus travel for under 16s would be so beneficial to everyone (and in particular the poorest) and also beneficial to the environment that I think it would more than justify the extra council tax.

Ken Livingstone has introduced free bus travel for under 18s in London at a cost of around £80m per annum in lost revenue and improved services. In Brighton I estimate the price would be much less than £3m per annum (we have a population 30 times smaller and far fewer bus services per head and fewer under 16s per head).

So for less than £3m a year (at very most) out of an annual budget of about £271m we could achieve this free bus transport goal.

Even if all this extra money were to come from council tax I estimate it would mean around a 3% to 4% increase in C.Tax (C.Tax revenue is approximately a quarter of total revenue). So a Band A household would have to pay an extra £2-£3 a month and Band D household an extra £4-£5 a month. An absolute bargain if you have any under 16s in your household and still a worthwhile price to pay for such a massive incentive for people to use public transport with all the benefits from falling car use of a safer and cleaner environment.

There will be less incentive for parents to drive their kids to school when they can get them there for free on the bus. Also it would be a massive saving for the poorest parents who have to use public transport for their children. Also children that get use to getting around by public transport are much less likely to get cars later in life.

One suggestion I have heard in the Labour group is to pay for free under 16 travel with increased bus fares for the rest. But this would be wrong because it would defeat the object of encouraging bus use. This proposal would be even more regressive than council tax because generally the poorest adults use the bus and any benefit amongst under 16s would be offset by adults who might turn to car use.

I think if this free bus policy is explained clearly to the electorate it would be both a vote winner and the extra council tax increase would be generally supported.


  1. No one disagrees with this kind of opportunist policy. The question is how are you going to pay for it? Is New Labour proposing a hike in the Council tax? Perhaps job cust? Perhaps even cust to frontline services? Which is it?

  2. Personally I am proposing a hike in Council tax which I think is pretty clear from the post.

    Households I believe would support paying an extra £2-£5 a month to have free public transport for their kids.

  3. So New Labour are proposing 'a hike in council tax'.


  4. Well, I am personally proposing an hike of £2 to £5 a month to pay for free bus travel for under 16s.

    Of course what I am proposing and what 'new Labour' will propose are probably (in this case) different.

    However this pathetic macho posturing of yours that tax rises are always wrong and unsupported is pathetic.

    If explained properly (as the rise in National Insurance for the NHS was) tax rises are accepted because they pay for public services that most people of below average earnings wouldn't otherwise be able to afford. They also have benefits right across society by reducing the environmental and social costs of inequality. You would have thought that the local Lib Dems would have agreed with that, but obviously by your remarks you prefer to hoodwink voters with disingenuous arguments.

  5. I'm sure people paying £4 for a single ticket on the tube enjoy subsidising all the under 18s!

  6. You are also in favour of "hard pressed" pensioners paying an extra £5 per month to subsidise the transport arrangements of middle class children!?!

    How many households without children do you think would support such a preposterous measure!?!