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Hundreds of Norwich students set to march through the city

City College Norwich.

City College Norwich.

Hundreds of students are set to take to the streets of Norwich on Monday for a three-hour march to oppose a possible end to a transport subsidy that helps thousands of teenagers to attend further education colleges.

Norfolk County Council is currently consulting on a host of possible cost-cutting measures - including the proposal to make all parents and carers pay the full £784 a year cost of college transport.

A big cut to the subsidy was averted last year, when the council changed its mind after concerted opposition from colleges, schools, students and parents.

But this time the council is seeking to close a £155m gap in its future funding, and has forecast that an end to the subsidy would save £2.5m a year from 2012/13.

The students’ union at City College Norwich is rallying young people to oppose the proposal, and will set off from the college at 11am to march through Norwich, before rallying at County Hall on Martineau Lane and handing over a petition at 2pm.

Tom Grant, student union president, and vice-president Tom Hollick, said: “Since late November, the county council has been in consultation about how to fund its services.

“Yes, savings must be made, but one that it proposes, that stands out the most, is the potential cutting of the transport subsidy - a subsidy that allows thousands of students to attend colleges like City College Norwich, a subsidy that, without which, many students simply could not afford to make the journey every day.”

They added: “Without this student subsidy, it will also affect the number of bus routes that operate due to the student trade, meaning that many vulnerable members of society will also lose the opportunity to get into Norwich.”

They said students brought £3,565,000 a year into the local economy, and added: “This issue is not as romantic as free education, nor as heart-wrenching as the loss of the education maintenance allowance, which affects over 48pc of City College students, but this is just as important for the students of the county.”

The two student leaders moved to allay any fears of violence, saying: “This has been organised with police co-operation. We condemn any violence, and any City College students that are involved in any disturbances will be dealt with by the college and the police.”

Consultation on the proposal runs until January 10, with the council currently talking to scores of organisations. To take part, visit www.norfolk.gov.uk/bigconversation.

Do you have an education story? Call Steve Downes on 01263 513920 or email steve.downes@archant.co.uk.

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