Kingston's new cabinet councillors heard at their first meeting that the overspend was due to transporting pupils with special educational needs (SEN), taking last year's total overspend to almost £1 million.

The number of children transported in 1998/99 was underestimated in the transport contract, allowing for 12 taxis carrying 32 children to and from school instead of 45 taxis carrying 84 children.

Officers admitted failing to take account of increasing SEN pupils and councillors blamed the overspend on a lack of effective management over the contract and budget.

"I am shocked by this overspend, and very worried at the lack of effective control," said Councillor Mary Reid.

"There was no discussion, no questions or debate. It was reported and accepted. I will be using the calling-in process to ensure this gets wider debate."

Education director John Braithwaite said: "We have had an increase in the number of children that we are providing extra resources for. This had a knock-on effect for increased transport. We have had new transport arrangements operating this year."

Councillor Kevin Davis said SEN was a very expensive business but added: "There was not very good monitoring of the contract."