Massive taxi bill for kids

MORE than £400,000 is being spent every year on taxis to ferry schoolchildren around. North Somerset Council is also forking out £8,000 a year in mileage payments

MORE than £400,000 is being spent every year on taxis to ferry schoolchildren around.North Somerset Council is also forking out £8,000 a year in mileage payments to parents to drive their own children to school.The cash makes up a significant chunk of the £3.5million spent annually on school transport in the district.There are 165 pupils driven in taxis, mostly to mainstream primary and secondary schools in North Somerset.The second highest number of trips is to special schools outside the area.In 2005/06 it cost £407,919 increasing to £423,187 the following year.The figures were released by the unitary authority after a request was made under the Freedom of Information Act.If a parent is not happy to let their child travel by bus or taxi they are being paid 24p a mile. There are 14 cases like this at the moment which will cost the authority a total of £8,134 by the end of 2007/08.The council's home to school transport manager, Mike Newman, said: "The council is required to provide transport for those children who live two miles away from a primary school and three miles from a secondary school."Our current policy seeks to do this by the most efficient means."If a parent has a concern about the transport provided, we use the mileage allowance as a last resort. They are only paid for the trips when their children are in the car and it only occurs when the children are eligible for the statutory service."Taxis are used in circumstances where both the number of pupils travelling is low and there are no alternative services or where the needs of an individual pupil mean specialist transport is required. Taxis are also used when a pupil's home is in an area where there are no public services operating or where to divert a contracted service, such as a minibus, would not be cost effective. In an attempt to keep school transport costs down the unitary authority buys season tickets for existing public transport services and contracts minibus or coach services.The authority is currently looking at cutting part of its service that provides transport for those children going to faith schools. Hundreds of pupils, parents and governors are protesting against the plans. Public consultation on the proposed cuts is due to end next week and councillors will decide whether to go ahead at a meeting on December 11.

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