When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
An important service that could be run more cheaply
9:00am Monday 4th November 2013 in News
Today’s news that county council leaders are considering cutting transport funding for special needs children is a clear illustration of the desperation at County Hall to identify savings.
Some would argue that funding for Oxfordshire’s most needy should be ring-fenced, with finance chiefs forced to look elsewhere to make budget cuts.
But the bill for taking pupils with special needs to their schools is costing millions – £7.9 million in the last financial year – and the cost to the council, and inevitably us the taxpayer, is increasing.
So it is not surprising that the service is coming under scrutiny.
The mother of one youngster with cerebral palsy has spoken up to praise the council for providing her family with the service and has explained how she would struggle without it.
But while her daughter does share a taxi service with three other pupils, there is evidence to suggest that the service could be run more economically.
It certainly doesn’t make financial sense to transport 89 different pupils in 89 different vehicles to one school.
The leaders of all political groups at County Hall should work together to find a more efficient way of providing this vital service.
The Liberal Democrat and Labour group seem in harmony in agreeing that while special needs children would be badly affected if the service is cut completely, there could be an opportunity to make some efficiency savings.
Now is as good a time as any to question whether spending about £30m over five years on one council service is good value for money.
There is no sign of central government increasing the amount of grant funding for Oxfordshire any time soon, so council leaders have no choice but to tighten their belts once more.
It is only right that they should consult the public on where the axe should fall.
While we don’t expect anyone to say that special needs children should be first in line to lose out, there is no harm in taking a close look at whether the service could be offered more efficiently – and more cheaply.
Comments are closed on this article.