Wakefield taxi drivers in ‘landmark’ win that could cost council millions

VICTORY: The Wakefield District Private Hire and Hackney Association, led by Wajid Ali (centre) has won their case against Wakefield Council, who now face a potentially massive bill.
VICTORY: The Wakefield District Private Hire and Hackney Association, led by Wajid Ali (centre) has won their case against Wakefield Council, who now face a potentially massive bill.

Millions of pounds could be paid out to taxi drivers after a ‘landmark’ court ruling found Wakefield Council has been overcharging for licensing fees for years.

The High Court in Leeds found that the amount of money the council had demanded from drivers were unlawful, and now face a massive bill to reimburse them all, backdated to 2004.

The judicial review was brought by the Wakefield District Private Hire and Hackney Association after the council hiked up the cost of a licensing badge this year by 60 per cent to £384.

Wajid Ali, co-chairman of the association, says the ruling could now have a knock-on affect across the country.

He said: “This is a landmark judgement and the other 383 authorities across the country will be looking at this.

“Whilst we understand why the council wanted this matter to be decided by the court, as it helps to clarify the law, we very much hope the council will now engage with us in the hope that further court proceedings can be avoided.

“We are only asking the council to refund money it was never entitled to charge in the first place. All those past and current members of the association who have been overcharged should be repaid.”

His Honour Judge Saffman, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court in Leeds, said Wakefield Council had misinterpreted the wording of Local Government Act of 1976.

He also refused Wakefield Council permission to appeal, but the council can make an application to the Court of Appeal.

While the refunded payment would be in excess of £1 million, if the council is unsuccessful in an appeal, the Express understands the figure could be much more.

Liz Ogden, interim city solicitor at Wakefield Council confirmed they were seeking permission to appeal the court decision, adding: “The High Court has ordered that new taxi licence fees are set by March 5 2019.

“We will continue to issue taxi licences, although until the new fees have been set, we cannot charge vehicle fees.

“Once the fees have been re-set, the appropriate fee for vehicle licences and inspections will be due and payable by vehicle owners.”