I’ll fight for a fare deal for students

New student president at Blackpool and the Fylde College, Sam Richardson.
New student president at Blackpool and the Fylde College, Sam Richardson.
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IT’S the other presidential race and locally one contender has emerged to champion the rights of those in further education.

Sam Richardson, 18, of Squires Gate, new president of the Students Union, is already lobbying hard on one big issue for students across the locality – and land.

The BTEC Business Studies level three student wants a fair deal on the buses.

He explains: “If you use buses in Blackpool you’re either an adult or a child.

“There’s no rate for students, so we have to pay full fare.

“The college subsidises passes for those most in need, but since the Government scrapped Education Maintenance Allowance, people struggle with the cost of just getting to college.

“We’d like either a student rate introduced or, better still, the Wave card extended to cover anyone up to 19 years old and still in education.”

Sam takes two buses to college, costing £13.50 a week, or £50 a month.

It takes an hour each way, when buses run on time.

He has a twin sister at college, so outgoings double for his family.

The cost of travelling to college was raised during a student forum, where all representatives gather with union executives and college staff to express opinions, concerns and communicate any activities and events.

Sam was well versed in the issue, having been part of the lobby through his membership of Blackpool Young People’s Council.

The council’s campaign led to the successful launch of the local Wave card, which entitles anyone up to the age of 17 and still at high school to half price fares.

But Sam wants to take it one stage further and make it for older students too.

Sam’s already met Blackpool Transport chief Trevor Roberts, who offered to come to the college to meet the student executive committee.

And his passion for change has caught the eye of other policy movers, makers, shapers and shakers.

He was selected as one of seven young people from the UK to visit Norman Baker MP, under-secretary for Transport, in a bid to get a subsidised scheme implemented nationally.

It’s a long way off coming, either locally or nationally, but Sam is confident change will come.

He’s become a dab hand at lobbying, and has been in touch with local MP Paul Maynard, and now plans to meet Blackpool Council chief executive Neil Jack. Sam admits: “I don’t take no for an answer. I’ve already had positive meetings with some influential people, and I’ll keep going as it’s something I feel so strongly about. I’m about to get a petition going with students, and hopefully they’ll all rally, as it’s an issue which affects so many people.

“We’ve 4,000 students in the age bracket, and if they step up and take action, that’s a powerful force.”

Sam leaves college in summer to study a degree in Business Management at Glasgow University.

His dad is Glaswegian, Sam knows the area and is a Celtic FC supporter. “Plus it’s a good university,” he adds.

He knows his “fare deal for all” campaign may not pay off personally.

“But if I can get something in place for future students, including my brothers and sisters, then that’s a great legacy to leave behind. When I get disheartened, I think about the long-term benefits for the union, and that keeps me going.”

Steve Stroud, Student Union liaison officer at the college, adds: “When the union took on the campaign to keep Education Maintenance Allowance last year, their main argument was that students needed it for travel costs.

“It obviously has had a big impact since being scrapped. Blackpool has pockets of deprivation and we’re saying to young people that getting an education will help them out of that, but the cost of coming to college makes it difficult for them.

“It’s great to see Sam working so passionately to ultimately help students out of poverty.”

The SU exists to “make a positive difference” for all students at all campuses of the college. It has representatives on college committees including the academic and equality boards.

It organises events, provides recreational facilities, raises awareness of financial literacy, Fairtrade and other issues, and supports charities such as Brian House, the Bispham-based hospice for children under Trinity’s wing.

Sam concluded: “I heard about the work of the union through then-president Tyrone Wassell, who is on the same course.

“The interests of students are important to me and I’ll work hard campaigning for what I believe in.

“On the other hand, if I don’t agree with any of the issues raised I’ll explain why.

“I like the idea of being accountable to other students.

“They voted for me, so if something they have asked for doesn’t happen, I feel I should explain why.”

After graduating he hopes to go into management. “Not politics...”