Licensing authority pushes for more wheelchair accessible taxis but fears price will put cabbies off

Harrogate Council are ready to push for more taxi drivers to offer wheelchair accessible rides by purchasing compatible vehicles, but fear the additional cost for drivers will be the main hurdle.

The move comes as the council looks to improve transport options for local residents after it was confirmed that only 22 taxi and private hire cars, combined, are licensed as wheelchair accessible.

Committee members discussed the issue at their latest Licensing Committee meeting which has been made public.

Council members agreed that they have no powers to enforce a minimum amount of wheelchair accessible vehicles that are licensed to operate as private hire cars, but they can make changes in licensing requirements for hackney carriage taxis.

During the meeting, members stressed that the additional cost for drivers would put a strain on earnings which have taken a huge knock due to the coronavirus pandemic, and weighing up the cost versus the potential increase in jobs was too risky for most drivers.

Speaking on the possibility of financial aid and support from the council, members said it was ”highly unlikely” that anything could be arranged due to lack of funding in their budget.

In a letter to the council’s licensing committee, Chairman of Mainline Taxi Association, Garry Sadler-Simpson, said that it will be difficult to recruit drivers for wheelchair accessible vehicles because the vehicles were “less profitable”, cost more to buy and generated ”at least a quarter less per mile than saloon cabs”.

The council concluded that it would issue 12 more licences for wheelchair accessible hackney carriage taxis to meet supply, and said they would review the impact of the new licences in 12 months' time.