Agenda item

Overview and Scrutiny Committee - Improving Disabled People's Access to Redditch Taxi Fleet Task Group

To receive a presentation from the Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Board, Improving Disabled People’s Access to Redditch Taxi Fleet Task Group and to consider the findings of the Task Group.


Members received a presentation from Councillor Gay Hopkins, Chair, Improving Access for People with Disabilities to Redditch Taxi Fleets, Short, Sharp Review, Task Group.


Councillor Gay Hopkins briefly informed Members that the proposal for consideration by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee had been proposed by Councillor Tom Baker-Price, following a distressing case involving a lady with multiple disabilities who had struggled to book a taxi to transport her home from a local supermarket in November 2015.  This had thrown up several issues: -

·         Overcharging of wheelchair passengers.

·         Pre-booking of wheelchair accessible vehicles.

·         The availability of wheelchair accessible vehicles.

·         Who should the lady have complained to?


The Overview and Scrutiny Committee had accepted the proposal form and in order to ensure that the task group’s proposals could influence local policies and working practices as soon as possible, it was agreed that a short sharp review would be undertaken. Therefore a short sharp review was carried out over a period of six weeks.


During her presentation, Councillor Gay Hopkins briefly explained the circumstances with regard to the difficulties the disabled lady had experienced when trying to arrange suitable transport to take her home.  Councillor Gay Hopkins also drew Member’s attention to the Equality Act 2010. 


There were approximately 400 licensed taxis in Redditch, with only 23 of those vehicles being wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs).  Councillor Gay Hopkins stated that if more WAVs were available in the Borough it could help with some of the issues experienced by wheelchair users, but it should be noted that the task group had been unable to determine the current demand for WAVs in the Borough.


The task group consulted with service users and local community groups who supported elderly and disabled residents.  Task group Members were disappointed as only four responses were received from local residents and three responses from local community groups.  The task group, however, were aware that due to the limited timescale of the short sharp review process this may have restricted the level of feedback received.  The task group invited all of the taxi operators in the Borough to send a representative to a meeting of the task group to discuss the services provided to passengers with disabilities.  Members were once more disappointed, as only one taxi operator out of seventeen operators had attended the meeting.  This operator stated that he rarely received requests for a WAV from passengers.  On the rare occasion that he received a request for a WAV he referred those customers to another operator with WAVs.


Councillor Gay Hopkins continued and informed Members that a new WAV could cost anything from £12,000 to £45,000.  The task group had been advised that a standard second hand saloon vehicle could be purchased between £6,000 and £8,000.  It would be unreasonable to expect the taxi trade to address all of the issues and concerns raised during the task group’s short sharp review. 


Councillor Gay Hopkins highlighted that nationally Redditch Borough Council had led the way, as licensed drivers were required to undertake disability awareness training before commencing work as a taxi driver in the Borough.  The task group however were concerned that not all taxi drivers remembered or applied their disability awareness training.  The feedback received from Worcestershire Regulatory Services indicated that they did not receive a lot of complaints from disabled passengers.  Task group members on considering this, wondered if it was a case of incidents not being reported, therefore incidents were actually unreported as passengers may not be fully aware of whom to report any incidents or concerns to.


The presentation also detailed the Recommendations from the task group and Councillor Gay Hopkins briefly highlighted the findings of the task group with regard to the reasons behind the Recommendations. 


Further discussion took place with Members in strong agreement, that the vast majority of licensed drivers in the Borough were a credit to the Borough, the Task Group Report, had however, highlighted a need for the concerns of the travelling public to be addressed with regard to the minority of licensed drivers who failed to comply with the licensing requirements placed upon them or adhere to the disability training awareness undertaken. 


Members briefly discussed Recommendation 1.2, as detailed in the task group report, with regard to drivers displaying stickers in their vehicles that provided information about how to report complaints. Councillor Jennifer Wheeler commented that the wording concentrated on the negative side, as it only referred to ‘complaints’ being reported and that the wording should include positive feedback also.  Therefore it was agreed that the wording be amended to include the reporting any ‘complaints’ and ‘compliments’.


Councillor Gay Hopkins drew Member’s attention to the flipchart and informed Members that, as detailed at Recommendation 2.2, the lists referred to and displayed on Brighton and Hove City Council and Eden District Council websites; with regard to detailed information on licensed operators in their areas who operated WAVs were available to view on the flipchart.


Councillor Roger Bennett stated that he applauded anything that would improve the taxi service within the Borough, he would however highlight that not only are the taxi trade and Council responsible for addressing any concerns raised, but that passengers themselves should also ensure they also took responsibility when making travel arrangements. 



RESOLVED that, the Recommendations of the Task Group, as detailed

in the report and subject to the amendments, as detailed in the preamble

above, be agreed.  Subject to further consultation being carried out by

Worcestershire Regulatory Services with the relevant consultees.


(a)  that applications for new hackney carriages to be made for vehicles that are less than six years old, meet European M1 safety standards and have facilities for carrying a disabled person in a wheelchair within the vehicle.  (This relates to the Hackney Carriage Vehicle Licensing Policy only);


(b)  that drivers display stickers in their vehicles that provide information about how to report compliments and complaints;  


(c)  that the Driver Licence Policy – Application for a Hackney Carriage and / or Private Hire Vehicle Driver’s Licence – should be amended to require that refresher training should be provided on driving standards and disability awareness to taxi drivers every three years;


(d)  that a media campaign be published to guide disabled people and taxi drivers when travelling by taxi about their rights and responsibilities;


(e)  that Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) publish a list of drivers who currently operate licensed wheelchair accessible vehicles on the WRS and Redditch Borough Council websites in a similar format to Brighton and Hove City Council and Eden District Council;


(f)   that WRS undertake a review of the conditions attached to taxi operators’ licences; and


(g)  that the Licensing Committee reviews the effectiveness of the disability awareness training provided to taxi drivers. 

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