A council has been criticised for spending more than £6MILLION of taxpayers’ money on taxis to ferry pupils to school – in one year.
Northamptonshire County Council spent a staggering £6,151,915 in the last academic year on taxis for disabled special needs children, expelled pupils and gymslip mums.
The cash-strapped authority claims parents of special needs children – who make up £5,184,210 of the bill – are partly to blame for the huge cost.
They believe some families take advantage of the free transport system to use taxis even when they live close by and refuse to share lifts with other disabled pupils.
The figures released under the Freedom of Information Act also reveal the council forked out £435,239 to young mums and to run expelled yobs to their new schools.
It spent a further £532,446 for taxi journeys by pupils in mainstream education who live away from school, such as children in foster care.
The council’s free taxi bill more than doubled from £2,764,481 during the academic year 2005-06 to £6,151,915 between September 2009 and July this year.
Much of the extra cash has been diverted from major roads improvement projects across the county.
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the huge cost could raise serious concerns among parents.
He said: ”Taxpayers will be concerned that the money spent on taxis has shot up so drastically in such a short space of time.
”There will be certain cases where it is necessary to use taxis to get pupils to school, but the council needs to ensure that they are getting the best value for money in these situations.
”It would be wrong if well-behaved students were to lose out because of the huge costs incurred by those pupils who have been expelled.”
Cllr Heather Smith, cabinet member for transport and highways, said they were ”going over every detail” in an effort to bring costs down.
She said: ”It would be nice if some parents took more responsibility to get their children to school and it wasn’t left to the rest of the taxpayers.
”We do have situations where a child with a disability lives very close to the school but the parents insist they need a taxi.
”We have tried pairing children up and suggested travelling on a bus together. But we often meet with resistance from parents.
”We are going over every detail, lifting every stone.
”The taxis to school issue is one that is very close to my heart, I have been extremely concerned about this for some time and we are working hard to reduce the amount.
”It is horrendous what we are paying and I will make sure we get it as low as we can.
”We have an obligation to get children to school whether we like it or not. To try and reduce costs we have been pairing up children where possible, and putting the taxi journeys out to tender with taxi firms.
”All we can do is get it at the best price we can and use alternatives and ensure that taxis are only ever used as a last resort.
”I would much prefer to spend the money repairing the roads.”
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council admitted it also runs a countywide bus service running pupils to school.
The Education Act 1996 forced all local education authorities to provide free transport arrangements “where necessary” to ensure all pupils can get to school.