THE AGE limit on taxi’s that are equipped to allow wheelchair users to sit in them during a journey is set to be relaxed in Blaenau Gwent.
This will be done in the hope that it will increase the number of fully wheelchair accessible taxis in the county borough.
At a meeting of Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council’s General Licensing committee on Monday, March 13, councillors debated tweaks that need to be made to its draft ‘Policy Relating to Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicle Licences’.
This follows changes made by central government which has seen the Welsh Government publish it’s ‘Guide to Harmonisation of Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing in Wales’ and the UK Government’s Department for Transport’s ‘Statutory Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Standards’.
Trading standards and licensing team manager, Steve Osborne told councillors that following a consultation, the main changes for the council’s policy are around CCTV and Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAV).
Mr Osborne said: “There was a request to change the council’s WAV policy and lower the age limit to 10 years as these vehicles are expensive.”
The policy currently requires this type of vehicle to become a licensed taxi within five years of the vehicle being registered.
Mr Osborne said that the council’s transport department which examines the road worthiness of taxis “have no objections in principle,” to the proposal.
Cllr Malcolm Cross asked how many taxis have wheelchair access in Blaenau Gwent and whether these are grants available to help taxi drivers buy them?
Senior licensing officer Helen Jones said: “We have around four to six vehicles that can carry a particular size wheelchair on to the vehicle without being dismantled and the passenger having to get out of the wheelchair.
“That’s out of about 120 licensed vehicles.
“If it were easier for people, we’d get more vehicles in the fleet.”
Committee chairwoman, Cllr Lisa Winnett said: “It would help so many people.”
Mr Osborne said that “if it’s the will of the committee” he would also investigate whether there are grants available to help buy these vehicles.
If there are, Mr Osborne would write to taxi drivers to tell them.
Councillors were also asked to decide whether CCTV should be voluntary or “mandatory” for taxis to have them,
Cllr Cross said that if he owned a taxi firm he would be “far happier” if his drivers had cameras.
Cllr Cross said: “I feel that a CCTV protects both the operator and the passenger and alleviates any doubt.”
Data protection officer. Steve Berry explained that the problem with compelling taxi firms to have CCTV is “who controls” the data.
Mr Berry said: “The problems we face is by mandating it, we do exercise an element of control and responsibility and would need to tell taxi companies when and how to use it.
“With a voluntary one there’s nothing to stop the taxi company seeing the worth and need of it and putting that system in place – they take full control of that data and how it’s used.”
Councillors voted unanimously to support the changes to the policy and also to investigate whether there is grant funding to help drivers buy wheelchair accessible taxis.