Council chiefs have admitted that they would make the parents of a black or Asian child with special needs to travel to school in a taxi driven by a firm run by BNP supporters.
In a move anti-fascist campaigners described as 'outrageous', council chiefs said they had awarded the family taxi firm run by Corsham town councillor Mick Simpkins a renewed school run contract, and said that they would not fund an alternative if a black or ethnic minority parent objected to their child being transported to school. Other white parents who have already objected to their children being transported to school by the firm were refused council funding for an alternative, and the council said it would be no different for an ethnic minority family.
Cllr Simpkins said he would treat all children transported by his firm, be they 'black, Asian or anything in between' exactly the same, and said parents who protested were attempting 'to put us out of business'.
The row blew up after the Simpkins family, who all work for the firm, stood as candidates for the British National Party in and around Corsham earlier this month. Cllr Simpkins is also standing as the party's parliamentary candidate at the next general election. The firm was awarded a council contract to ferry children with special needs to school in nearby Chippenham, often without chaperones. Some 18 months ago, one parent, Cheryl Walker, objected to her daughter, who has special needs, being taken to school by the firm.
"I was told that it was a BNP taxi or nothing, basically. I asked if they could just give me the money they would pay them but they said no to that, or to providing a different taxi firm. I'm not the only one who won't put their child in those taxis. There aren't any children from ethnic minorities that need this transport at the moment, but it could happen. I really don't think the council would say the same to a black parent as they said to me, but there's no way we'd know unless it happened," she added.
A spokesman for Wiltshire Council said there was no problem with the firm transporting children, and that their membership of the BNP was not an issue.
"We have a duty to the people of Wiltshire to get the best value services across the whole of the council. We have a rigorous process to ensure all drivers who transport children on behalf of Wiltshire council have satisfactorily completed all the relevant checks," he said. "Our strict, open tendering process allows all contracts to be carefully chosen based on a number of criteria. These criteria include value for money and quality, but take no account of race, religion, gender or political leaning. Should we have any complaints about the delivery of any of our services, we would of course investigate them fully."
Cllr Simpkins said his firm provided a valuable service to special needs children, and was a service provided regardless of ethnic background. He described the objections by Cheryl Walker and others last year as 'an attempt to put us out of business'.
"Well, mum now has to take her child to school herself while we still have our council contracts for the other school children," he said. "The fact is the council, the school and we are only concerned with getting the children to and from school safely and because they all have different special needs, each one is treated specially. There is no room for playing politics with the children. I'm surprised no one has asked the obvious. Yes, they are all white but would be treated exactly the same if they were black, Asian or anything in between."
A spokesman for Unite Against Fascism, which organised a demonstration after Cllr Simpkins was elected unopposed to Corsham Town Council two years ago, said the situation was 'outrageous'.
"This is quite shocking."
The Bath Chronicle