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Cabbies in row

TAXI drivers who spent thousands of pounds converting their cabs for wheelchair access may demand £400,000 compensation from the council if its policy changes.

York Press: EASY ACCESS: Steve Jones with a modified taxi EASY ACCESS: Steve Jones with a modified taxi

In 1997, Dartford Borough Council decided all cabs would have to be converted for disabled access and set its own cut off date for June 2002, following Government legislation.

But now a row has broken out between taxi drivers, with one camp wanting the access and others not.

The Dartford Taxi Association (DTA) advised the council to make wheelchair access compulsory, without consulting the majority of drivers. DTA Secretary Steve Jones said: “If the council decides not to implement the policy, we will demand compensation for up to 60 DTA members who have invested about £400,000 in wheelchair-access vehicles.

“People have had five years to change over. There's no reason why they should complain as the council wrote to every driver before the policy was approved. No one objected.”

But Steve Farron, spokesman for taxi drivers opposed to the wheelchair access policy, has petitioned the council. He said: “There are 264 licensed taxis in the area, and I have 133 signatures opposed to the policy. It was only when I presented the council with the petition in July did it agreed to discuss the issue.”

Disablement Information Advice Line North West Kent development manager Malcolm Seely said: “We approve of the policy in general but some disabled people do find it easier to get into a saloon car, rather than up the steps of a black cab.

“A policy which uses all types of vehicles, so they are acceptable to people with hip and knee problems, as well as wheelchair users, is what we would like.”

The final decision will be made at a cabinet meeting tomorrow (Thursday).

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