TAXI drivers may be facing the dole following a controversial decision taken by Cheshire West and Chester’s licensing committee last week, Labour councillors believe.
Against fierce opposition from taxi drivers and opposition Labour councillors, the Tory-dominated committee, meeting in Chester, decided to enforce an age limit on all hackney cabs and private hire taxis in the borough.
It will mean any hackney will have to come off the road if it is 15 years old while private hires will be off the road at 10 years, regardless of condition or roadworthiness.
Cllr Brian Jones (Whitby, Ellesmere Port) Labour spokesperson on licensing issues, said: “Yet again, the Tories refused to listen to the people they are supposed to represent.
“The committee were told by so many taxi drivers that imposing this age limit on vehicles will force people on to the dole because they won’t be able to afford to buy a replacement.
“It’s possible this measure alone will mean hundreds of people losing their livelihoods.
“That’s more hard-working local people on the scrap heap and on benefits and for what? I’m horrified by this decision.”
The council argues the decisions, which it says relate to vehicle standards and customer service, harmonise the different arrangements inherited from the former district councils in 2009.
The changes involve a range of measures including a code of conduct for trade and a new driving standards assessment.
The committee voted on the age of vehicles after studying safety, comfort and the reduction of harmful emissions, balanced against the financial implications for the trade.
There are transitional arrangements for the next three years for existing licence holders.
The committee also reaffirmed its previous decision all hackneys should be wheelchair accessible by April 1, 2016.
The meeting was packed with taxi representatives including drivers, owners and business operators.
Committee chairman Cllr Adrian Walmsley (Con) told them: “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.”