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Council tax rise to fund Burnham’s bus pass policy

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Free bus travel for young people in Greater Manchester will be funded by increased council taxes, under plans to be considered by the region’s combined authority this week.

The ‘Opportunity Pass’ for 16 to 18-year-olds was one of mayor Andy Burnham’s key manifesto pledges during the 2017 election campaign.

Plans to fund the policy through a council tax increase of between £6 and £18 per household will be considered on 25 January as part of Mr Burnham’s budget proposals for 2019-20.

Additional funding for the Opportunity Pass, as well as wider bus service reform, will be provided from other mayoral revenue sources.

The GMCA said it hopes to attract corporate sponsorship and work with local sixth form colleges to subsidise the policy.

If the budget is approved, a two-year pilot of the scheme will begin in September this year.

Mr Burnham said bus reform is “essential for the future success of Greater Manchester” and that the initiative would “encourage more young people than ever before to use the bus”.

The GMCA said it hopes the initiative will help increase passenger numbers across the bus network and reduce fares in the long term.

Providing free travel could also help young people to access education, employment and training opportunities and reduce antisocial behaviour and gang activity, it said.

The total cost of the scheme for a full financial year is estimated at £15.9m, but will be monitored over the course of the pilot.

Mayoral funding will cover the scheme’s £9.3m cost in the 2019-20 financial year, of which £4.5m will come from the proposed council tax increase and £4.8m from other sources.

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