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Jamie-Law
Jamie-Law, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 14411
Experience:  Solicitor
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It is a very question. I am a sole trader hackney taxi

Customer Question

It is a very long question. I am a sole trader hackney taxi business with a minibus and a Mercedes estate car neither of which are wheelchair accessible. My councils licencing department
JA: Where are you? It matters because laws vary by location.
Customer: I am in Shropshire. I didn't mean to send that yet I am still writing my very long and complicated question. The licencing department has recently brought in a new policy (against all sensible advice) that means from April 2021 all hackney carriages must be wheelchair accessible, meaning I will have to change two perfectly good vehicles or change to private hire plates. Their reasoning for this crass decision is that they are removing the five zones left over from the old borough councils before they were amalgamated into one Shropshire council. Zone one has had a wheelchair access policy for hackney taxis for a long time now and licencing say that they are prevented by law from reducing the standards of their taxi policy, implying that an all wheelchair policy is better than a mixed fleet policy, which it is clearly not. I believe that the only reason they are forcing this policy on us is because they are fearful of being sued for compensation by the radical Shrewsbury drivers who have been forced for years to invest in wheelchair vehicles for years.
JA: What steps have you taken so far?
Customer: Blast. I didn't mean to send that either. I pointed out in many letters the governments best practice guidelines of a mixed fleet policy, and they responded that we have a mixed fleet policy because private hire don't have to be wheelchair accessible, as if they are too stupid to realise that private hire and hackneys have nothing to do with each other. I have never,in my 13 years as a driver seen a wheelchair user waiting at a taxi rank. They always plan ahead, and book a vehicle in advance. I have a lot of elderly customers who simply cannot get into anything higher than a normal saloon car. I also have quite a few wheelchair users who transfer to the front seat. They would all, without exception I asked them all, refuse to travel in a vehicle while still strapped into their wheelchairs, so they would,like so many of my other customers with all sorts mobility problems, be discriminated against by being prevented from using price regulated hackneys and forced to use PHVs who can charge as much as they want. I also pointed out that rather than helping wheelchair users such a policy would empower hackney drivers to refuse a wheelchair job, which if I am honest, very few drivers enjoy doing because of the extra time and work needed which cant be charge for. The person taking a booking can just say all our taxis are hackney so get yourself along to a taxi rank where one might be waiting. I don't think there is any law that could accuse a hackney driver of discrimination for not wanting to drive maybe many miles unpaid to pick up a wheelchair. Hackney are only on duty to be hailed in the street when their for hire sign is lit, or when they are parked at taxi rank. Although most of my work is prebooked I don't have to take a booking over the phone if I don't want to, and as I have said I have never been approached by a wheelchair user out on the street. Another problem that I pointed out to them is that so many wheelchairs are simply not safe to be fixed into a vehicle with a passenger strapped into them. In thirteen years I have only ever seen one wheelchair with special yellow painted bracket fixing points which is a sure sign that it has been crash tested and been deemed fit for purpose. I pointed this out to licencing and the stupid response I got was that taxis are a special case in law and that it was a decision for the passenger to take as to whether or not their chair is safe. I think it is my decision, as driver, to say whether or not my passenger is safe, and considering that about sixty drivers a year in the UK are killed by unsecured passengers hitting them in the back of the neck like an Exocet missile during a collision I would say I have a very big say in whether or not I was prepared to take a wheelchair without the proper safety fittings, but by refusing such a wheelchair passenger I would risk losing my licence and with it my business.I have to go now, but I still have a few questions.
JA: Anything else you want the Lawyer to know before I connect you?
Customer: the first being, can I sue the council for discrimination again the ill and infirm and the the disabled
Submitted: 10 days ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 10 days ago.

Hello my name is Jamie and I will help you. I am just reviewing your question. This is an email service so there may be delays when responding.

Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 10 days ago.

What is it you want to know about this today please?

Customer: replied 10 days ago.
The latest report by the parliamentary Task and Finish Group on Taxi licencing published many recommendations, one important one was that all councils should have a mixed fleet of Hackney vehicles.
The chairman of the Task and Finish group,Professor Mohammed Abdel-Haq, even went so far as to state that a 100% wheelchair accessible hackney policy is highly discriminatory against the vast majority of people with physical and age related disability's, and should not be adopted. The governments own best practice guide for councils licencing department also advocates a mixed fleet. The government guidelines state that if a council decides to deviate from best practice guide lines they must state the reason for for the deviation. The reason our incompetent licencing depart gave that they are deviating was that they are not allowed by law to reduce the standards of public protection when issuing a new policy.The problem is that that is exactly what they are doing. No one in their right mind can possibly believe that a policy that blatantly discriminates against the vast majority of disabled and elderly people can be an improvement. 96% of the aged mobility impaired public do NOT use a wheelchair. I believe.sic[know]. that the only reason that the licencing department is forcing this misguided policy through has nothing to do with public protection, and everything to do with council protection. They are scared that when all the five zones are amalgamated they will face legal action from the zone 1 Shrewsbury drivers who have been forced for years to buy unnecessarily, and at great expense, wheelchair accessible vehicles,if the rest of Shropshire drivers are not forced to do the same.
Simple question is, are there any legal steps I can take to prevent the councils blatant act of disability discrimination against so many of my disadvantaged customers.
Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 10 days ago.

Yes. You can write a letter to the Chief Officer of the Council and make a complaint.

They will investigate the matter and report back to you

If they do not uphold it then you can go to the Local Government Ombudsman.

They offer a free, independent service and can examine your complaint for free at: www.lgo.org.uk

The next option is to seek a Judicial Review in the High Court.

This is where a Judge examines the decision to see if they have acted and reasonably.

Clearly there is a cost for that. For more information on that process please see:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/administrative-court-bring-a-case-to-the-court
But try the Chief Officer and Ombudsman first. That may resolve it.

Can I clarify anything for you about this today, please?

If not, I would appreciate a 5-star rating for my answer, by clicking the button at the top of the screen. I am not paid for my time unless you rate. If you need anything further I am available for a follow up at no extra cost.

 

Expert:  Jamie-Law replied 6 days ago.

If this answers your question could I invite you to rate me 3, 4 or 5 stars before you leave today?

I am only paid for my work on this question if you rate my answer, using the star system at the top of the screen. Please do not forget as it is an important part of the online process! If you need anything further I am available for a follow up at no extra cost. Thank you.