Education bosses spent a whopping £35m over five years to hire taxis to transport children to schools across Northern Ireland.
Last year alone our five education and library boards spent £7m on taxis to bring pupils to school. The Western Education and Library Board spent the most last year with the bill standing at £2m.
The cost over the last five years comes to almost £35m. This is a sizeable chunk of the current annual home-to-school transport budget of around £100m.
More than 300,000 pupils qualify for school transport, approximately 11% of primary and 46% of post-primary – at an average cost of £800 per pupil.
Most of these children use buses, but it has now emerged that the education boards are spending millions every year on taxis for some children.
UKIP Leader in NI David McNarry MLA queried why a sum he has described as “very substantial” is spent on taxis.
He pointed out that the North East Education and Library Board (NEELB) claimed that they could not afford to provide transport for Cloughmills eight-year-old Adam Gilmour, who was tragically killed as he walked to the school bus last November. Yet the NEELB spent £1.4m on taxis for other children last year.
“When I asked the question on how much the five Education Boards had spent on taxis in the last five years, I was not prepared for the enormous total cost which the answer revealed,” he said.
“It was £34,385,552 – just short of £35m. This is a very substantial sum.”
Mr McNarry queried why so much was being spent at a time of cashflow crisis at Stormont.
“I have no doubt of the importance and excellence of the service the taxi drivers give, in not just transporting schoolchildren but in being their guardians on the way to and from school,” he said.
“I also recall the tragic death of a young boy in north Antrim because no school transport was available. Given the sheer size of this overall transport budget, you have got to say that a penny-wise, pound-foolish attitude can have very bad consequences.”
The full article and video is available Via Belfast Telegraph