COUNCIL cash is used to transport more than 1,200 children to school by taxi in Cumbria every day - with one pupil’s daily journey costing £355.

Figures obtained by The Mail under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that 1,203 pupils are taken to and from school by taxi with some being driven up to 260 miles a day.

Of the 1,203 pupils picked up by taxi, 45 are taxied to Barrow from elsewhere in Cumbria, 77 are taken to school in Kendal, 173 are taken to Carlisle, 126 to Workington, 43 to Coniston, 29 to Millom, 44 to Ulverston, 35 to Windermere and 125 are taken by taxi to schools outside of Cumbria.

The figures provided by Cumbria County Council reveal that the longest single journey taken by a child by taxi to get to school is 138 miles.

Children transported by taxi include those attending mainstream schools and those attending Special Educational Needs schools, as well as pupil referral units.

One Barrow taxi driver has a daily weekday booking in which he has to drive to Windermere at 8am to collect a child and bring him back to a school in Barrow.

At the end of the school day he collects the child and drives them back home.

“Some days I’ve driven up to Windermere and arrived at their house only to be told the kid has refused to go to school that day,” the cabbie said.

“At £50 a journey that does seem like a waste of taxpayers’ cash.”

Barrow taxi driver Bob Mullen, who represents the Furness Taxi Trade Association, said school transportation was seen as “big business” in the industry.

“There are some firms which have fairly sizeable contracts,” he said.

“It can be quite a big business.

“I’ve not heard of drivers complaining as long as they get paid but there should be a system in place so drivers aren’t unnecessarily making journeys if fares don’t show up.”

A spokesman for Cumbria County Council said: “The county council transports approximately 9,600 children to school each day.

“There are several reasons why some pupils are transported for part or the whole of their journey by taxi.

“Many children in Cumbria live in remote and rural areas, which are not all accessible by large vehicles or buses.

“Depending on eligibility and distance criteria, the council may choose to provide a taxi service to transport pupils collectively from hard-to-reach areas to their nearest bus stop(s) where they are collected by their school transport provider.

“Additionally, the council transports over 750 children with Special Educational Needs to their school or college. In many cases these pupils have an identified requirement in their Educational Health Care - plans that mean taxi transportation is the most appropriate type of transport to meet their needs.

“Pupils are placed on shared transport whenever practical to do so.”