Cheshire taxi drivers plan to challenge licensing changes
ANGRY taxi drivers are planning a legal challenge against the council over controversial regulation and licensing changes.
Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) has approved the introduction of new policy which imposes an age limit on private hire taxis and black cabs.
Under the changes, new licences will now only be issued to vehicles aged under 42 months.
Licences will expire when private hire taxis reach 10 years old and black cabs reach 15 years old.
Taxi drivers – many of whom are already struggling to cope with rising fuel prices and falling trade – told the Leader last month they feared the changes could be the ‘final nail in the coffin’.
Mark Williams, joint director of Abbey Taxis, said operators and drivers were now looking to mount a legal challenge.
“The decision is unacceptable and we are pursuing a judicial review,” he said.
Mr Williams, whose firm has about 150 drivers in Chester, has previously suggested the changes could result in an increase in fares and a drop in the number of taxis on the road.
CWaC approved the new policy when licensing committee members met on Tuesday, April 16.
Representatives from the taxi trade, including drivers, owners and business operators packed the meeting.
Cllr Adrian Walmsley, chairman of the licensing committee, told the meeting: “We value taxi drivers and the last thing we want to do is to take taxis off the road.
“We have consulted widely amongst the trade, public and other stakeholders to help inform of our new policy and I believe we have created a policy that, at its core, benefits the travelling public, raises standards and improves our environment. “
Changes to the vehicle age limits will come into force on April 1, 2016.
Transitional arrangements are being put in place for the next three years for existing licence holders.
Other changes include the introduction of a new trade-wide code of conduct for trade and new driving assessments. All black cabs must also be wheelchair accessible on or before April 1, 2016.
CWaC said the new policy was designed to ‘harmonise’ the different regimes inherited when the council was formed in 2009, raise standards and improve the environment.
Chester taxi drivers angered as age cap limits introduced for vehicles
TAXI drivers in Chester have reacted furiously to new age limits on their vehicles imposed by Cheshire West and Chester Council.
Tuesday’s licensing committee meeting saw officers approve controversial proposals to limit the age taxis can be licensed.
The new age limits, which will be mandatory from April 1, 2016, are 15 years for Hackney carriages and wheelchair-accessible private hire vehicles, and 10 years for all other private hire vehicles.
Any taxi driver wishing to replace their car must get one under three-and-a-half years old for it to be granted a licence, while until April 2016, Hackney carriage drivers in Chester must buy a new cab.
Although the council has introduced the plans as part of an eco drive to ensure active vehicles are more environmentally friendly, the taxi industry has slammed the plans and is looking to appeal the decision.
Taxi driver Barry Fitzgerald, of the Hackney Association, is one of those who objected to the plans, with a 473-name petition delivered to the council against the age limit.
He said: “We never really had a consultation at the meeting, we just had three minutes each to speak and after that we couldn’t answer any points raised.
“We are now waiting on our unions to take the next step and see what happens.”
Chester Private Hire Association driver Bob Gilogly said: “Many drivers, in the middle of a recession, will simply be unable to do this, so it is estimated that up to 500 taxi drivers could face unemployment over the three-year transition period.
“The consequences of this decision for the general public are also obvious, as this will lead to increased fares or the inability to get taxis late at night, with the increased risk of trouble in the city centre.”
Mark Williams, director of Chester firm Abbey Taxis, said: “The decision made regarding the policy is unacceptable and we will be putting in a judicial review.”
CWaC licensing committee chairman Cllr Adrian Walmsley said: “We value taxi drivers indeed and the last thing we want to do is to take taxis off the road.
“We have consulted widely and I believe we have created a policy that, at its core, benefits the travelling public, raises standards and improves our environment.”