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