Cost of probe into taxis rises

Money: Coun Mullineaux
Money: Coun Mullineaux
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THE spiralling cost of the South Ribble taxi licensing review has risen to £94,000 - on top of the original budget of £25,000.

The figure was among a report which went before a cabinet meeting last week.

Council bosses had already been criticised for spending three times more than approved investigating the scandal this summer.

Last year, a budget of £25,000 was agreed for review of failings in the licensing department’s practices after reports two taxi drivers were involved in sexually exploiting schoolgirls.

In July it was reported South Ribble Council had spent more than £71,000 investigating.

Coun Matthew Tomlinson, who posted the new figure on his Facebook page, said: “I’m sure at the beginning of all this nobody could have foreseen how much it is costing. If I was a resident who had nothing to do with the council I would be asking some very serious questions whether this provides value for money residents are looking for. We’ve had two staff suspended for a year getting paid and we don’t seem to be any nearer.”

During the process, independent solicitors were called in to compile a report, and two members of staff were suspended. Council leader Peter Mullineaux, said: “The original budget provision of £25,000 was for the initial independent review into taxi licensing. Since then, more money has been allocated to cover disciplinary investigations, a cross-party review into the way the investigation was handled, and actions taken to improve the licensing service.

“As part of this, we have brought in extra staff, including an experienced licensing manager from a neighbouring authority. We have also delivered safeguarding training to all employees and have been working with the taxi industry on improving the service.

“Where possible, we have used resources from inside the council, but it has been necessary to employ extra staff to bring about these improvements.

“The cost reflects the council’s commitment to ensuring residents feel confident we are providing them with the best licensing service.”

possible. Nothing matters more to this council than the safety of its residents.”