JEREMY CORBYN should not be allowed to take taxpayers for a ride with his promise to introduce ‘free’ bus travel for the under-25s as part of Labour’s local election campaign. As he should know, the word ‘free’ is a misnomer – every policy, including OAP bus passes, costs money. Perhaps ‘state subsidised’ might be more appropriate.
And, while Mr Corbyn is right to highlight the importance of social mobility in the context of young people travelling to college, university or work, he will be letting them down if his policy is financially unsustainable. Perhaps he would care to answer the following questions. First, Labour says the policy will be “paid for using money ring-fenced from Vehicle Excise Duty”. How is this money spent at present – and which services lose out as a result?
Second, the Opposition suggests “up to 13 million young people” will benefit from the policy which “will help them save up to £1,000 a year”. What is the total budget? After all, 13 million youngsters saving £1,000 a year does, in fact, equate to an annual cost of £13bn if taken to its logical conclusion.
Thirdly, how will bus companies enforce the age limit? Does this mean identity cards? Fourth, Labour’s press release says funds will go to those “local authorities who introduce bus franchising or move to public ownership of their local bus services”. Such exemptions mean it is misleading for the party to give rise to the suggestion that this policy will apply to all under-25s. Does Mr Corbyn agree? Finally, will there be sufficient buses at peak times in urban conurbations?
Though this issue does appear to be good politics by Mr Corbyn after a series of misjudgements, his response will help voters to decide whether this approach is also good economics – or not.