North Lanarkshire’s two largest political parties have now been drawn into the row over school taxi contracts.
As previously reported in PHTM, taxi operators had heavily criticised North Lanarkshire Council for only paying them 20 per cent on the contract rather than the agreed 75 per cent.
North Lanarkshire SNP’s education spokesperson Agnes Magowan said: “According to the Scottish Government schools are hopefully starting up fully on August 11. If taxi companies have gone out of business will there be enough service to cover all the home to school contracts?
“It is not only numbers I am concerned about. Youngsters with additional support needs often build up a relationship with their taxi operator who becomes skilled in supporting the particular needs of the child and their parents or carers. I would be extremely worried if we lost this expertise.
“I would urge both the council and the Labour administration to review this arbitrary decision immediately and provide this workforce with a fair and balanced settlement in line with the previously confirmed 75 per cent.
“I hope the council will ensure that taxi companies have enough funds to remain in business to honour their contracts from August 11 or this will be an additional challenge.”
A Labour Group spokesperson said: “It’s worrying to see that the SNP is seeking to overturn contractual decisions of the council. This goes against established best practice on how elected members should conduct themselves.
“Taxi drivers should be accessing the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme which allows them to continue to operate at the same time.
“Our outstanding council staff are working round the clock to support all workers in North Lanarkshire and the SNP should concentrate their time on supporting our staff as best they can.”
A council spokesperson added: “We are currently planning for schools returning as normal, which will include a detailed assessment of transport needs. We will soon be providing updated contract information to transport providers once we have confirmation of guidance in relation to social distancing and health and safety matters on school transport.”