Over £27 million has been spent by South West Wales councils to transport pupils to schools in taxis, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have revealed today.
Peter Black AM believes that the Wales Audit Office should investigate if the current system is delivering the best value for money.
Freedom of Information responses reveal that since 2012, over £27,027,610 has been spent on taxis transporting pupils to and from schools in South West Wales.
The available figures are:
Bridgend - £1,227,815 (since 2014)
Carmarthenshire - £8,154,209 (since 2011/12)
Neath Port Talbot - £6,279,148 (since 2012/13)
Swansea - £11,366,438 (since 2012/13)
Responding to the figures, Peter Black, Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for South Wales West said:
“Although I understand the circumstances under which Councils need to use taxis for transporting pupils, £27 million is nevertheless an eye-watering amount.
“I would expect local councils to be reviewing this expenditure to see if there are more efficient and effective ways of delivering the service, such as using the council’s own vehicles in some instances, combining contracts and staggering school start and finish times.
“I believe a study by the Wales Audit Office of all 22 councils would be able to identify best practice and help with this process.
“I am in no doubt that a proportion of this taxi money is spent to help pupils who have particular learning difficulties and that is entirely right. However, the overall figure is so high that it’s clear this figure goes beyond that.
“Of course councils need to make sure that all pupils are able to get to school, but tax-payers need to know that we are getting the best value for money.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats believe in delivering the best possible service at the lowest possible cost. This must also be delivered in a transparent way, so people know where their taxes are being spent. Too often this hasn’t been a practice carried through by local councils and the Labour Government in Cardiff Bay.”