THE city council’s taxi bill has soared by more than £100,000 in only two years – sparking demands for a full probe into the “dramatic” rise.
Nearly £664,000 was spent on cab journeys across the Capital during 2014-15, as the cost of ferrying children to and from school jumped from around £363,000 in 2012-13 to just under £507,000.
I’m surprised because I understood we were structuring those services to get the unit cost downIain Whyte
Officials said that with thousands of staff based in council premises throughout Edinburgh, the trips were necessary to ensuring services remained as efficient as possible.
Opposition figures today voiced concern at the rise, which comes as the city battles to save £107 million by 2020.
It has emerged that health and social care teams – currently battling to plug a £16.5m financial black hole – also ramped up spending from around £60,000 to nearly £67,000.
Staff in the city development, corporate governance and services for communities departments collectively billed the public purse for just over £63,000 in 2014-15.
Councillor Iain Whyte, Conservative finance spokesman, said: “I’m surprised that the cost is up so much because my understanding was that we were structuring those services to get the unit cost down as much as possible. It’s really about managing demand, making sure that criteria are being following, and looking more at coordinating some of this – if the journey can be shared, they should do it.”
Cllr Whyte also questioned whether the rate of increase could be justified by changes in the school population and wider demographic shifts.
“It needs investigation and I would be concerned to know whether the cost is rising because of the increased number of children in school or whether costs are rising ahead of that,” he said.
“A 20 per cent increase over the two years does seem very dramatic and seems to be a much higher increase than you would imagine would be necessary.
“This should be looked at to check the increase is needed and to contain costs where possible.”
Council officials admitted taxis could be used for attending meetings or carrying out other essential business, such as visiting and transporting clients.
But they said staff were always encouraged to use alternative means of transport.
A spokeswoman said: “This increase relates to journeys to and from school for pupils, including those with disabilities.
“Many of the city’s vulnerable children and those with disabilities require travel assistance, and this type of journey has increased as the client group and school population has grown.”