The number of hackney carriage licences in Harrogate looks set to increase for the first time in 30 years to improve taxi options for people with disabilities and those who require wheelchairs.
Harrogate Borough Council has licensed 148 hackney carriage cabs since around 1988 but only 11 have wheelchair access.
A council study in March found wheelchair users faced “increasing difficulty obtaining the services” of suitable taxis.
At a licensing committee meeting last night, the local authority pledged to take action.
Cllr John Mann, a member of the committee, said he felt the number of dedicated wheelchair vehicle licences needed to be increased.
“I think this is a very difficult issue and it is replicated across the district and in other big towns.
“I do think we need to increase the supply of wheelchair vehicles for wheelchair users. At the same time, we need to protect the sustainability of the local taxi trade.”
Because the council caps the number of hackney carriage licenses, the only way to obtain one is to buy an existing vehicle – which the council said can inflate the price by £10,000 or more.
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In a letter to the council’s licensing committee, Garry Sadler-Simpson, chairman of Mainline Taxi Association, said it could be difficult to recruit drivers for wheelchair accessible vehicles because the vehicles were less profitable.
The vehicles cost more to buy, he said, and generated at least a quarter less per mile than saloon cabs. He added:
“Add to this the length of time spent on each job making sure your passenger is comfortable and safe at both sides of each job and it can be another reason for drivers of these vehicles taking far less money than their standard car workmates.
“It does not take too long for some to want to move on to other vehicles.”
However, Mr Sadler-Simpson added the issue needed to be resolved.
The council agreed to issue 12 more licences for wheelchair accessible hackney carriages to increase supply. It said it would review the impact of the new licences in 12 months time.
Although the council cannot force taxi firms to provide more journeys to wheelchair users, it said its measures would help to increase supply.
The committee also agreed that the maximum length of a hackney carriage with wheelchair access should be increased to 5.2 metres and that the council continue to publish contact details of firms which offer wheelchair accessible taxis.
A further report will come back to the committee with more detail on the proposal at a later date before a final decision is made at a full council meeting.