DUMFRIES and Galloway Council has spent a jaw-dropping £1,864,009 on taxi fares in the past two years.
And of that sum, almost £1.5 million has been splashed out to transport children to school in cabs.
A survey conducted by a national newspaper revealed details of the huge amount that transport of this nature takes out of the local authority’s coffers, but the council says the charges are unavoidable if children are to get to school in rural areas.
A council spokesperson said: “Dumfries and Galloway is a largely rural area served by 103 primary schools and 16 secondary schools. Some children, particularly in secondary schools, have to travel much longer distances than those in urban areas. They will, therefore, qualify for transport provision. Where possible, school buses or service buses are used, but this is not always feasible for small numbers, in remote rural locations or for children with additional support needs. In these cases, taxis or minibuses offer an important service in supporting children’s access to education.”
MSP Alex Fergusson said: “The Council’s statutory duty to provide transport for children more than two miles away from their school is always going to cost a lot of money in a vast rural area like ours.
“However, this is a huge amount of money, and I have asked for a full breakdown of the figures, as it is hard to believe that more cost-effective alternatives don’t exist in many instances.
“For instance, there must be many cases where bigger buses, or perhaps two smaller ones, would cut out the need for taxis. The council is currently undertaking a full review of the provision of school transport, and that review should now include a long hard look at this particular aspect of the budget.”
Mid Galloway Councillor Graham Nicol said: “We are awaiting a full report of the transportation of all pupils being brought before the education committee in January.
“Once that is published we will be looking at the transportation budget for the whole council.”
The council’s education service’s total for taxis came to £1,454,019 leaving a £409,990 taxi bill run up by other council departments.