MORE than £2.1 million was spent on taxies taking children with medical and behavioural difficulties to school in Kirklees last year.

Figures show that Kirklees Council spent almost £12m on school transport costs over the last six years.

And with around 1,050 children and teenagers currently eligible – that amounts to around £20,378 per person.

The figures were obtained by Crosland Moor man Derek Thomas, a former taxi driver, who once took children and young people to and from school.

It is just one example of an expensive vital frontline service which all local authorities have to continue to provide – despite the economic downturn and enforced cuts.

Children with special needs and mobility problems would otherwise be unable to get to and from schools throughout the district.

Judith Anderson, Transport Officer with Kirklees Council’s school transport team, said their work was vital.

“The school transport team provide an essential service which enables many children and young people to attend school and it contributes a lot to supporting their education,” she said.

“This is especially true for children with special needs who may have, for example, a mobility problem or a learning difficulty.

“We think the Kirklees school transport team provides a good value service – one delivered by people who care.”

But former taxi driver Mr Thomas – who obtained the figures using Freedom of Information – described the figures as “outrageous”.

He said costs could be saved and believes some of the youngsters he once drove to and from school were able to get there on public transport.

“I think it’s outrageous,” he said. “Obviously children in wheelchairs and those with mobility problems who cannot use buses need it, but I was taking some who had ADHD and could get about perfectly.

“Why do they need taxis to school?

“And is it ever looked at if their parents could take them to school like others have to?”

Kirklees Council says all those eligible for this kind of school transport – including many children with Statements of Special of Educational Needs – have an assessment of needs or a medical referral from a consultant paediatrician.

The figures show that for the 2009/10 academic year, the council spent £2,139,756 on taxies – with about 900 pupils receiving transport to school and about 150 learners receiving transport to college.

Since 2004, they have spent £11,956,291 on hiring taxis and buses for such purposes.

Taxi companies have to apply to Kirklees Council and submit tenders to bid for the work. The ‘home to school’ contracts are tendered as a whole every three years.

Before the start of each school year all routes are reviewed.

Pupils who are leaving are taken off the routes and new eligible pupils added.

For new and merged routes, quotes are obtained from at least three operators with suitable vehicles prior to them being booked.

Currently, there are 35 taxi firms who transport the children and young people, and 26 PSV/bus operators.

The figures cover transport related costs to school.

Kirklees Council says a small number of parents/carers are paid mileage if their child cannot be accommodated on existing routes or the child is travelling to an out-of-area school where they don’t already transport pupils.

Kirklees Council receives funds from central government to finance transport, as do all councils.