Council’s U-turn on taxi proposals
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John and Jan Thomson of Macduff’s JJ Taxis hit out at an Aberdeenshire Council proposal to cap the ages of vehicles in the area.
FOLLOWING a storm of protest, Aberdeenshire Council chiefs are expected to backtrack on a plan to force taxis older than five years off the road.
The local authority stressed this week that there had never been a commitment to do this and it was only a proposal.
Taxi drivers in Banffshire raised their concerns last month that many would go out of business, as they could not afford to replace their vehicles so regularly.
John Thomson, of Macduff’s JJ Taxis, was part of a 100 strong group of drivers who met with council licensing bosses, and they were all in agreement that the proposal was unworkable.
He said: "About 100 drivers from all over the area attended the meeting and opinion was very strong that the proposal should not go through.
"Also talking to my customers, everyone is in support, backing us all the way and they have all said that if we started petitions they would sign.
"Public feeling is that if the vehicle is safe and passes its test, there should be no reason to replace it."
The council’s argument was that the area’s ageing fleet had led to an increasing number of vehicles failing to pass their inspection test, and was clogging up the vehicle inspection system, meaning that taxi firms were having to wait longer to be tested.
Mr Thomson added: "If the system cannot cope perhaps the council could upgrade their facilities, bring more testers in, or use private testers."
Karen Wiles, head of legal services at Aberdeenshire Council, made it clear that the suggestion was only a proposal.
She said: "There has never been a commitment from the council to force operators to replace vehicles over five years old.
"The suggestion was put forward to get the trade’s views, on the basis that a higher proportion of vehicles of that age are failing MOT tests at centres in Aberdeenshire.
"We realise, as it seems does the trade, that there are alternative ways to ensure the roadworthiness of vehicles which are not so financially onerous."
The consultation on the proposed changes, which will be raised at the council’s licensing sub-committee next month, also includes a proposed revision in taxi fares, an increase in operators’ fees and a system requiring taxis to display their vehicle insurance details.
The sub-committee will decide which issues should then move forward to a public consultation.
The law requires the council to undertake a fares review every 18 months, but in Aberdeenshire – at the request of the taxi trade – it is done every year. All licensed taxis are inspected by the council on a six-monthly basis.