Cheltenham Borough Council have confirmed that plans to move all licensed taxi drivers into Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV) by 2021 will continue despite fewer than a quarter of all taxis currently meeting the new set of regulations.
Speaking to TaxiPoint last week, the council also believes that the demand for taxis in the future is likely to be “significantly reduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic”, but are keen for the few that financially survive the pandemic to “comply with the highest standards”.
Of the 224 Hackney taxis licensed in the borough, only 54 are currently WAV compliant.
Cabbies in Cheltenham have been pleading for a two year extension to recover from the financial impact of the virus before moving over to the new mandatory WAV measures. Malcolm Rogers, a Cheltenham taxi driver of 30 years, has created a petition to highlight the current challenges facing the industry, which are leaving many cab drivers struggling to financially survive and currently waiting hours for one single fare.
However, the council pointed towards an earlier decision made in May, which found any change to the policy made in 2018 would now penalise those that have already made the change. The council also stated that they would support a move to re-licence cabbies as private hire drivers if they were unable to meet the new WAV measures in time.
Councillor Andrew McKinlay, cabinet member for development and safety, said: “The decision to implement the mandatory wheelchair accessible policy for all licensed hackney carriages in Cheltenham was made in 2018 and drivers were given almost 4 years to plan for the change. Some drivers have already taken steps to comply with the WAV policy. “A similar request was made to the council earlier this year and after careful consideration of the facts and in consultation with cabinet colleagues, a decision was taken not to revise the policy and its implementation date. This decision was published including the reasons on the council’s website. “The decision in 2018 was extensively consulted on and scrutinised by the overview and scrutiny committee. The council is committed to protecting the livelihoods of those hackney carriage drivers who comply with the council’s taxi licensing policy.
“The council believes that the demand for taxis in the future is likely to be significantly reduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and that it is important that those taxis that remain in service comply with the highest standards. “We remain of the view that it would not be interests of either the travelling public, or those taxi drivers who have complied with the council’s standards to allow none compliant hackney carriages to continue to operate beyond 2021.”