Taxis for dis­abled chil­dren at heart of ‘best value’ row

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Edel Ke­nealy

James Kelly has branded the Ruther­glen SNP “in com­plete de­nial” about the scale of their cuts to schools and lo­cal ser­vices in South La­nark­shire.

SNP MP Mar­garet Fer­rier and SNP Holy­rood can­di­date Claire Haughey have, Mr Kelly says, re­peat­edly at­tacked the £ 14mil­lion spent by South La­nark­shire Coun­cil on taxis.

How­ever, free­dom of in­for­ma­tion re­quests have re­vealed that an over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of the money is spent to take dis­abled chil­dren to school.

The fig­ures, ob­tained by Scot­tish Labour, show that the taxi bud­get is used to pro­vide trans­port for vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple by the Labour- run coun­cil de­part­ments.

The money also goes to­wards en­sur­ing travel for looked af­ter chil­dren, adults with learn­ing dif­fi­cul­ties ac­cess­ing col­lege, and trans­port­ing home­less peo­ple and their chil­dren.

Mr Kelly said: “I know how much of a life­line ser­vice school trans­port is for chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties in Ruther­glen, and her com­ments will make for dis­tress­ing read­ing for any­one who uses th­ese ser­vices. The SNP should apol­o­gise for not check­ing their facts be­fore at­tack­ing how the money is spent.

“The SNP in Ruther­glen have deemed the money spent a ‘ques­tion­able fi­nan­cial choice’. I don’t think it is, I think it’s a ser­vice we should pro­tect but with hun­dreds of mil­lions of pounds of cuts com­ing to lo­cal ser­vices that will be­come harder.

“We don’t have to ac­cept those cuts. Faced with the choice be­tween us­ing the pow­ers of the par­lia­ment to in­vest or car­ry­ing on the cuts, I’ll use the pow­ers to stop the cuts when it comes to set­ting the bud­get.”

But the SNP say it is Mr Kelly who has got his facts wrong.

A Ruther­glen SNP spokesper­son said: “It is quite sim­ply as­ton­ish­ing that – mere months af­ter the South La­nark­shire Labour Party were em­broiled in a row over how some of th­ese taxi con­tracts have been awarded – James Kelly has launched this bizarre at­tack on the SNP.

“No­body is sug­gest­ing that ad­di­tional trans­port needs should be ig­nored, but, with the sec­ond high­est taxi bill in Scot­land, se­ri­ous ques­tions have rightly arisen about whether or not Labour are en­sur­ing best value for tax­pay­ers’ money.

“Deputy Coun­cil Leader Jackie Burns stood down as Labour’s can­di­date for Hamil­ton, Larkhall and Stone­house just days af­ter news broke in a Sun­day pa­per last year that taxi con­tracts worth more than £ 200,000 were awarded to a rel­a­tive of his elec­tion agent.”

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