Cllr Claire Holland is the Deputy Leader of Lambeth Council (Sustainable Transport, Environment & Clean Air), and a councillor in Oval ward.
The government is abolishing free travel in London for U18’s. And at a time when our communities need support not more attacks as we work to recover from Covid-19.
When the government eventually brought in lockdown, we were asked not to use public transport, to leave it safe for those essential key workers who needed to get around London. We saw residents using our streets differently, exercising, walking, playing and socialising in our neighbourhoods. This all meant a drastic reduction in transport use and income for TFL that threatened their viability. So the government negotiated settlements with TFL and other transport authorities all around the country. But for London, instead of providing the monies TFL needed, they negotiated a partial settlement that sought to impose harsh conditions for London.
As part of that emergency settlement with TFL the government has insisted that free travel for Under 18’s is abolished. They say temporarily, but we know when something is gone, it is so much harder to reinstate and even a temporary removal is playing unacceptable politics with young Londoner’s lives. Some students have to get the bus, train or tube to school and to penalise them for doing so is an attack on a fundamental right of equal access to education in a 21st century democracy. It also means many young people in Lambeth will be prevented from participating in extra-curricular activities such as sport, extra learning, youth clubs, vital to their health and wellbeing.
As a council, we currently only have access to emergency funding for transport infrastructure in response to Covid-19. We are asking the government to provide emergency funding for cycle storage, training and grants to enable financially stretched families to afford bikes, but, at this time the government is refusing funding for these measures. If we don’t provide young people and families with a means and confidence to cycle then the barriers remain in their way.
We are supporting the amazing campaigning of London’s young people who will be directly impacted by this attack. Our Lambeth Youth Council (LYC) has co-signed a letter sent to Grant Shapps from the young mayor’s team in Lewisham. LYC is bringing a deputation to full council this evening to share their concerns about this attack on their freedoms. This is an attack on our poorest families and exacerbates the harsh inequalities that already exist and which have been intensified and exposed by Covid. A third of Lambeth children are growing up in poverty and as our communities try and recover from Covid and all the economic, social and health impacts, this is an unnecessary, unjust and savage attack on our children.
We acknowledge the amazing leadership LYC and their colleagues are showing throughout London. You can offer your voice to their campaign and demand that the government withdraws this unjust condition. You can read their letter here. You can sign the petition here.
Cllr Claire Holland