Aberdeen City Council Reneges on Accessible Taxi Policy
Aberdeen City Council has abandoned plans to make all of the city’s taxi fleet accessible for disabled passengers by 2018.
Currently, Aberdeen’s taxis are a mixed fleet: 54% of vehicles are considered accessible, whilst the remainder are traditional saloons.
By contrast, many of the UK’s biggest cities – such as London, Liverpool and Edinburgh – have fully accessible fleets, equipping all licensed cars (namely, Hackney carriages and black cabs) with ramps for wheelchair use and hearing aid induction loops for passengers with hearing aids, whilst allowing guide dogs into cars at no extra cost.
For some time, Aberdeen City Council has faced calls to universalise the accessibility of its taxis, and was expected to pass legislation into law in June that would make full accessibility a legal requirement for taxis by 2018. However, when they met in June, the Council’s licensing committee chose to postpone their decision until yesterday, whereupon they voted to abandon the current motion altogether and, instead, revisit the issue next year.
Graham McColl, a spokesperson for Aberdeen Taxi Group, declared his backing for the session's outcome, saying that ‘while it has been pushed back for a year and the council is set to do another consultation, the trade will be happy that they will be consulted on this and the potential for a mixed fleet’.
Meanwhile, representations of the trade union Unite argued that requiring drivers to upgrade their vehicles to meet new regulations would incur considerable costs, which may prove ultimately needless, given the sufficient numbers of accessible cabs that are already on the roads.
However, for Aberdeen City Council, their decision may engender problems further down the line.
Sandy Munro, a solicitor who backed the motion to implement accessible taxis, cited recent legal proceedings against Dundee City Council over their mixed taxi fleet, which took issue with the 'lack of guidance as to what level of split [between accessible and non-accessible vehicles] would be deemed acceptable', and the Council’s inability to articulate a ‘discernible rationale for arriving at the current levels'.
By the same token, the committee’s vice convenor Marie Boulton remarked: ‘We have legal advice here and a recommendation from officers to move ahead with the policy.
There is due to be a decision in court regarding Dundee City Council’s wheelchair policy and I request that when that decision is made we are told at this committee if there is any implication to this council.’
It’ll be interesting to see what happens in Aberdeen and how the situation in Dundee might create any legal precedents that necessitates policy change in the future. We’ll keep following the proceedings, so keep checking in with the Taxi Centre blog for more.