Rules around taxi and private hire operators are likely to be tightened up by West Lothian Council.
A review was ordered after concerns were raised about disabled travellers being excluded and serious concerns about driver fitness. It could include the setting up of a new forum – which the trade wants – to include operators, council staff and police to deal with issues
A meeting of the council’s Environment Policy Development and Scrutiny Panel (PDSP) drew a number of operators into the public benches to hear Licensing solicitor Audrey Watson run through issues raised in a year long study of the trade. Conditions were last reviewed in 2011.
The council study specifically looked at discounted fares and how they affect disabled people; The use of meters when disabled persons are accessing hire cars and the implications arising from the Equality Act 2010 on the council’s taxi accessibility policy.
Concerns were raised last year about the use of exemptions by drivers and hire operation firms to stop taking fares from disabled people.
The council takes a robust stance regarding the issuing of exemption certificates. A driver who applies for one must be medically assessed by the council’s medical advisers. The driver must satisfy the physician that they are fit to undertake the duties of a hire car driver in terms of the DVLA group 2 standards for professional drivers but unable to provide reasonable assistance to passengers because of a medical condition.
Medical exemption certificates are reviewed regularly. Only around 30 out of 840 licensed drivers (190 taxi and 650 private hire car drivers) currently have exemption certificates. Changes to the rules will go the council’s Executive for decision.
A report to committee said: “It was suggested that the issuing of exemption certificates to drivers appears to defeat the purpose of having wheelchair accessible vehicles as taxis.”
The report added: “The hire car trade organisations have identified a number of hire car conditions which they would like to see amended. The Licensing Team is also of the view that following the research into equality issues several of the conditions require updating and they also need rewording generally to make them easier to understand.”
Meanwhile, West Lothian Council is set to start a consultation over establishing a new Catholic secondary school at Winchburgh.
The council’s Education Executive has approved the launch of a statutory public consultation covering setting up the new school’s catchment area, admission arrangements and primary to secondary transition arrangements.