Official advisers to Scottish ministers on disability transport have estimated those ordering cars, powered wheelchairs or mobility scooters are paying £1,000 a year more than they should because of “excess profits” being made by Mobility Operations.
The company is the only one accredited to the Scottish Government’s accessible vehicles and equipment scheme, which enables people with disabilities to access vehicles, but The Scotsman has been told others will be sought this year.
The Mobility and Access Committee for Scotland (Macs) met social security minister Ben Macpherson on Tuesday to highlight its long-standing concerns with Motability Operations, which last month announced the latest of a series of large profits, of nearly £560 million for the year to September.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Whilst Motability is currently the only provider accredited under the accessible vehicles and equipment scheme, we plan to begin work to re-open further accreditation rounds this year.
“Further accreditation rounds will be held this year to provide opportunities for additional providers to join the scheme.
“This will enable opportunities for other providers to join while ensuring a high standard of service is maintained that meets the needs of disabled people.
"We note the significant profit made by Motability and their intention to utilise this for good causes, a rebate to clients and future investment in transitions to low-emission vehicles, and we will be keen to see the detail of this."
A spokesperson for Macs said: “We met with the minister and discussed our concerns around the value for money of the scheme, including the profits being generated.
"As responsibility for disability benefits is devolved to Holyrood, we believe that, in the longer term, Scotland could do so much better.
“Our estimates from the recurring annual profits would lead us to believe that the Motability scheme could be run at a cost of approximately £1,000 less per customer per year.
"We understand the risks of a fluctuating car markets and hence proposed that excessive profits could be returned as dividend at year or lease term end.”
Macs convener Linda Bamford tweeted: “What a difference that would make to many Motability customers.
“The cost of being disabled is high enough and drags people into poverty.”
Nine in ten of nearly 400 members of Disability Equality Scotland said last year they faced barriers accessing the Motability scheme, including because it was too expensive and not value for money.
In a joint statement, Motability Operations and its Motability parent body said: “On announcing the creation of the accessible vehicles equipment scheme, the Scottish Government made it clear that suppliers would need to take part in an open and fair competitive tendering process.
"We are proud that both Motability and Motability Operations were accredited during the inaugural tendering process.
"This means disabled people in Scotland who choose to use their benefit to lease a car, scooter or powered wheelchair will continue to receive the same high levels of customer service and value for money as those in the rest of the UK using the Motability scheme.”