Eastbourne Council defers decision on wheelchair accessible taxis

Taxi accessibility rule deferred by Council

Eastbourne Herald, 4 October 2019

Eastbourne Councillors have deferred a decision on whether to introduce new rules requiring taxis to be wheelchair accessible.

On September 30. Eastbourne Borough Council’s Licensing Committee considered proposals to introduce new rules for the town’s hackney carriages (taxis) and private hire vehicles (mini cabs).

Councillors were asked whether it should be mandatory for hackney carriages to be wheelchair accessible in order to gain a licence from the council but they deferred the decision because they did not have the full picture. A hackney carriage can be flagged down or hired at a rank, while a private hire vehicle can only be pre-booked, usually either by phone or online. A driver can also have a combined licence to be both a hackney carriage and a private hire vehicle.

Local authorities only have the legal powers to set certain conditions (such as wheelchair accessibility) to hackney carriages, not to private hire vehicles. The specific rule being considered by the committee would have been for all new hackney carriages vehicles to be made wheelchair accessible, either when a new licence was registered or when an existing licence holder replaced their vehicle.

The committee heard how the proposed rule was supported by East Sussex Disability Campaigners Possability People and the Eastbourne Access group. Speaking on behalf of these groups campaigner and Eastbourne resident Liz Trethewey told councillors there are too few wheelchair accessible taxis in the town. She said: ‘the need to travel spontaneously is something everyone should have the right to do and should not be discriminated against because of a disability. Of course there will be exceptions but to be a wheelchair user should not be a reason to be denied such a human right”.  Ms Trethewey also argued any new wheelchair accessible vehicles should be rear loading, as she said there was a particular shortage of these in the town.

While the committee deferred its decision on accessibility criteria, it did agree to bring in rules requiring drivers to be tested on equalities, disability awareness, Child sexual exploitation (CSE) and safeguarding as part of the knowledge test- and drivers will be required to undergo regular medical checks.