UP to 1,800 students across North Yorkshire are facing a 33 per cent hike in bus travel to schools and colleges after councillors agreed controversial increases for over 16’s.

Youngsters starting further education courses this September will have to pay £480 per year, instead of the existing £360, for home to school transport as the county council battles to cut costs in the face of government budget cuts.

Parents and students had called on the council to think again.

A total of 290 replied to a consultation on the increases, with 83 per cent objecting.

Many protested that children will have no choice but to stay on until they are 18 and the increases are unfair, especially on people living in rural areas.

Many were concerned students would be less likely to stay on at school and more families would face financial hardship.

One parent warned: "I am appalled that any charge is made for mandatory education. As with university charges this is the thin end of the wedge and a disincentive for families and students to add value to their lives and the country’s prosperity through education. It is a retrograde step. Do not do this."

Another parent added: "This proposal is outrageous - £360 a year is enough, never mind more. What about reductions for families with more than one child at college?

"Now it is compulsory for over 16’s to attend college or training this is an unfair charge. How are they supposed to get there, pollute the atmosphere and clog up the roads travelling by car every day?”

But the increases were agreed by the council’s executive committee. Free transport will be provided for vulnerable groups and charges will be reduced by half for families on low incomes.

About £950,000 is currently spent subsidising the cost of school buses for over 16s. The council says it needs to reduce that to £550,000 as part of across the board reductions in budgets of nearly £94m by the Government.

Executive member for schools, Coun Arthur Barker, said:”Most other authorities are making charges, many in excess of what we are proposing. We are working with schools and colleges to avoid increasing charges in the future.”

Further increases up to £600 could come next year if they cannot agree with schools and colleges to use subsidies and bursary funds.