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Outrage As Civil Servants In Scotland Allocated Huge Taxi Allowance

In Edinburgh, city officials have been criticised for signing a contract which allows civil servants and other officials to use taxis in the city free of charge for ‘official government business’. Previously, the Scottish Government told staff that they would have to pay for these journeys themselves or else use Lothian Buses. However, they have changed their tune and signed a £1.4 million contract with a cab firm in the city.

A number of public servants will be allowed use the transport including Scottish Futures Trust. This latest outrage comes on the back of news last week that civil servants had spent almost £1.5 million on cab journeys in the last five years. Almost £130,000 of this cash had been spent on trips from Victoria Quay where the Scottish Government HQ is located and St Andrews House despite the fact that the number 22 bus travels this route.

Central Taxis are the cab company who will benefit from this four year contract. Despite the outrageous spending, a government spokesman brazenly tried to defend this expenditure and claimed that spending on cabs has gone down in recent years. For example, over £300,000 was spent in 2008 but this had been reduced to under £140,000 in 2011.

Government agencies such as the Forestry Commission have also spent more than £1.6 million on taxis in Edinburgh over the last 4 years. According to Patrick Harvie MSP, who is also the convener of the Scottish Greens, taxis must only be taken when it is clear that there is no other public transport options available. He said that although taxis sometimes have a role to play, especially when it prevents staff from bringing their car to work for the sake of a short journey, overuse is unacceptable. Harvie believes that public transport, cycling and even walking should be viable alternatives to taxis for public servants.

Margo MacDonald, the independent Lothians MSP, came up with the predictable excuses used by public figures when it comes to justifying unnecessary spending of public money. She used the excuse that the disruption in the city centre which has resulted from the tram works means that taxi use is sometimes necessary. Although she did admit that she reminded staff that taxpayer’s cash is being wasted by these journeys, it doesn’t seem as if anyone cares.

The Scottish Government tried to claim that the £1.4 million figure was the maximum possible expenditure and they may not actually spend that amount. They pointed out that taxi expenditure has fallen by 50% in the last four years. However, one wonders if public servants will continue to take advantage of the free taxi service available to them in Edinburgh since there is no one to monitor usage.

Source: scotsman.com