Leeds council spending nearly £22,000 every week on taxis for children who go to school outside the city

Leeds City Council is spending nearly £22,000 a week on taxi journeys for children who go to school outside of the city.
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The local authority paid out more than £1.1m for private hires for vulnerable pupils between April 2021 and March 2022, according to numbers obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

By law, the council is obliged to offer free home-to-school transport for some disabled pupils. Those with special educational needs (SEND) or certain medical conditions which restrict their mobility are among those entitled to free journeys.

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But of the 2,392 children the council took to school in taxis last year, around 100 receive their education outside of the city, the local authority said. Because of the extra miles involved, the average annual transport bill for a pupil going to school elsewhere was £11,400, compared to roughly £5,100 for a child who attends school in Leeds.

Leeds Civic Hall, left, and an Uber private hire taxi.Leeds Civic Hall, left, and an Uber private hire taxi.
Leeds Civic Hall, left, and an Uber private hire taxi.

Of the 12 companies the council has a contract with for home-to-school transport, three are based outside of the city – in Dewsbury, Ilkley and Wakefield respectively.

The council said there was a combination of reasons why these pupils might attend school outside of Leeds, including location, parental choice or specialist provision being available elsewhere.

A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “We are committed to placing children in schools within the city wherever possible, however sometimes to best meet a child’s needs they need to be placed outside of the local authority area.

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“In Leeds, fewer resident pupils attend state-funded schools outside of the local authority area than nationally.

“The reason a school may be chosen outside the Leeds area is due to a number of factors specific to the individual. This could include the need for a highly specialist place that meets an individual’s needs, parental preferences or a school in a different authority being closer to a child’s home when they live on the border of Leeds.”

Overall, the council spent almost £13m on taxi journeys for vulnerable pupils over the course of the year. More than £2.7m of the overall bill went towards paying passenger attendants to accompany the children on the journeys.