A taxi-card voucher scheme which benefited disabled people in Fife for over 20 years has been abruptly scrapped by Fife Council.
While councillors saved concessionary bus and rail travel for pensioners, their decision to scrap taxi-cards as part of the 2016/17 budget has been criticised for penalising those who need help most.
Pete Meldrum, taxi operator, said: “These people are probably some of the most vulnerable people in Fife and I really don’t think this has been thought through properly.
“Fife Council operates an overstretched Ring and Ride service which is a free service, however, it does not cover all of Fife and eligible C+1 card holders in the likes of the Wemyss villages depend on taxi card vouchers to travel for doctors’ appointments etc.”
Latest figures show 5,700 people use the scheme, which is available to those in receipt of disability living allowance or attendance allowance, or are registered blind.
Recipients received 80 vouchers a year, each worth a maximum of £2 towards any single fare.
Last year 150,000 journeys were made, at a cost of £276,000 to Fife Council and £524,000 to card holders.
Cllr Pat Callaghan, executive spokesman for environment and transportation said councillors faced “tough choices” in saving £91 million over three years.
The decision to scrap taxi cards would save the council £350,000 a year.
“We understand taxi journeys may have become an important part of life for some residents of Fife. Obviously they’re still free to use these services, unfortunately the council can no longer afford to contribute up to £2 per journey towards fares.”
Currently any excess demand on the free Ring and Ride service goes to the taxi trade at a cost of £2 per mile for every mile of the journey.
As a result, Mr Meldrum claims the decision to axe taxi cards will cost Fife Council MORE, not less, because passengers will pay nothing.
He said: “If there are no taxi cards and say only 50 per cent of taxi card users use Ring and Ride that would be an additional 75,000 journeys or shared journeys per year .
“I very much doubt the Ring and Ride service would be able to cope.”
The decision to axe taxi-cards was discussed at Kirkcaldy Taxi Association’s AGM on Tuesday night.
Dawn Hunter, secretary, told the Press the decision would affect business for some cabbies but definitely not all.
She said: “It’s the people who need taxi cards that I feel sorry for.
“For some old people it’s the only way they can get out and about because drivers would help them get to their door and carry their shopping bags, etc.”
Taxi card users were unaware of Fife Council’s decision, Ms Hunter explained, and she doubted whether Ring and Ride would offer them a fair alternative.
She added: “Ring and Ride isn’t a needs-based service, whereas taxi-cards are.
“If it’s 3pm you won’t get Ring and Ride. No chance. They’re all up at the bingo!”