Taxis across Stockton Borough are a step closer to improved wheelchair access thanks to proposed new accessibility rules from Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council.
Last night (12 November), the Council’s Cabinet agreed a revised Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing policy.
Previously only side loading vehicles were permitted a hackney carriage or a private hire vehicle licence but the proposed changes will mean that applicants will be able to licence rear loading vehicles, which are cheaper to purchase and maintain.
Councillors also agreed new safeguarding measures to help drivers recognise and be aware of vulnerable people and help them to protect members of the public. Existing taxi drivers and operators will be required to complete mandatory safeguarding awareness training by the end of 2016 while new applicants must successfully complete it before the issue of their first license.
Councillor Steve Nelson, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Communities, Access and Community Safety, said: “The safety of all our residents and visitors is absolutely paramount so these changes can only strengthen our commitment to people in the Borough.
“I'd particularly like to thank the positive contribution made by the taxi trade into the review. We had a very positive response during the consultation period and as a result the changes mean that people with disabilities will have further opportunities to travel easily and comfortably via wheelchair accessible vehicles. Taxi drivers and operators also have a unique position in the community where they are able to play an important role - the new safeguarding training will encourage them to help protect those most vulnerable.
“The changes on the whole will not only ensure the safety of residents but also protect reputable licensees.”
The Council’s Licensing Committee recommended the changes following a consultation in January between Trading Standards and drivers, individuals and organisations affected by the policy.
The revised policy will now be considered by members at full Council on Wednesday 25 November. If approved, the changes will be implemented from 1 January 2016.