Taxi driver petition over new Wakefield Council rules they say are stopping them picking up disabled passengers

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Taxi drivers say new rules introduced by Wakefield Council are stopping them from taking disabled passengers.

The local authority is bringing in legislation which would stop cabbies from using cars manufactured before September 2016, a move which the district’s drivers say is forcing around 90 per cent of their fleet off the road.

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Now the local Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Association says the new rule is making it impossible for them to buy enough wheelchair-friendly vehicles to serve the area.

A petition, which the associations says has already been signed by 200 drivers, will be submitted to the council in the coming weeks.

Association chairman Wajid Ali said: “Our customers are upset we can’t provide them with the service they deserve but it’s out of our hands.

“Under the Disability Discrimination Act it’s up to local authorities to help drivers be disabled-friendly.

“The NHS used to provide transport for patients between home and hospital, but they’ve cut back so much now we’ve picked up a lot of that work.

“That’s one area where taxis have a vital role to play in our society.”

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Mr Ali was also critical of plans to introduce more legislation, which will be discussed by councillors next week.

Under consideration are plans to make it harder for cabbies with a driving conviction to get their licence back.

But Mr Ali claims that the system in Wakefield is already “over-regulated” and he’s accused the council of not being “business-friendly”.

He said: “Our vehicles are subject to tests every six months, while every other local authority does it once a year over five years and then periodically after that.

“It costs us £160, and we’re paying that twice a year for no reason.

“There’s no chance that will change with this new legislation.

“If we get so much as a parking ticket we have to inform the council within seven days. We can’t do anything without the council knowing about it, so this will make no difference.”

Liz Ogden, Wakefield Council’s Interim City Solicitor, said: “Following extensive consultation, we have updated our hackney carriage and private hire vehicle standards as part of our commitment to ensure that passengers and drivers are safe when travelling and that vehicles meet emissions standards - promoting the uptake of cleaner fuels and improving air quality in the district.

“Those drivers whose vehicles do not meet the new standards have been given a two year period to comply with the new legislation, meaning that they would not need to change their vehicles until 2020, by which time Euro 6 diesels would potentially be five years old and cost less.”