CHANGES to a discounted taxi scheme are being implemented following budget decisions made recently by Aberdeenshire Council.
On November 25 the full council agreed the budget for Concessionary Travel Initiatives should be reduced by £225,000 for the coming financial year.
Councillors decided savings would be made through a reduction in the benefits provided by the TaxiCard Scheme, while still providing a useful service.
The scheme provides discounted taxi and rail travel for residents who can’t use conventional bus services, even with the help of a companion, because of severe physical disability or infirmity.
Eligibility is based purely on personal mobility and does not take into account the availability of alternative transport modes, either public or private.
There are currently 3,866 cardholders in Aberdeenshire. Of these, approximately 63 percent are aged 65 or over with a severe disability or infirmity, approximately eight percent are registered as having a visual impairment, and approximately 28 percent are in receipt of higher mobility Disability Living Allowance (which means that their ability to walk is severely restricted).
The current discount for taxi travel is 50 percent for journeys costing up to £20 and a £10 discount for journeys costing over £20.
From April 1, the discount will be revised to a 50 percent discount for journeys costing up to £10 and a £5 discount for journeys costing more than £10.
Based on current usage the changes will affect approximately 34 percent of trips - there is no impact for short journeys of up to around four miles and the fare discount is reduced by 50 percent for longer journeys (i.e. from £10 to £5).
Director of infrastructure services, Iain Gabriel, said: “The provision of concessionary taxi travel is not a statutory duty and around two-thirds of all Scottish councils don’t operate a TaxiCard Scheme, but we recognise the benefits to our residents.
“Our scheme was the most generous in terms of taxi trip benefits, namely the fare discount and the number of discounted trips permitted each year, and even after these changes will remain one of the most generous schemes in the country.
“The majority of councils have a maximum trip allowance of 104, equivalent to one return trip per week, compared to Aberdeenshire’s allowance of 208.”
Chairman of the council’s infrastructure services committee, Peter Argyle, added: “These changes will bring us closer in line with other Scottish councils while taking into account the reduced funding available for council services and maintaining what we hope will still be a quality and beneficial service for residents.
“Previous feedback from users indicated a preference for a reduction in the fare discount, rather than a reduction in the trip allocation or changes to eligibility, and this decision was taken in line with that view.”
Aberdeenshire Council’s TaxiCard scheme was last revised in January 2009, to address cost increases.
At that time the fare discount was reduced from 75 percent (with a maximum discount of £15) to 50 percent (with a maximum discount of £10).
A TaxiCard User Group was previously consulted and indicated a preference for a reduction in the fare discount, rather than a reduction in the taxi trip allocation or an amendment of the eligibility criteria.
The changes to the scheme are intended to reflect these views and the council is writing to all registered users of the scheme to inform them of the new arrangements.