Taxi drivers in Inverness have been left fuming at Highland Council’s refusal to cap the number of vehicles operating in the city – claiming the trade was on the “brink of collapse”.
The Highland Licensing Committee this week agreed to take no action towards changing the current policy and introducing restrictions on the number of taxis and private hire cars (PHC) licensed to operate in Highland or any particular part of the region, particularly the capital.
The move had been pushed by Inverness Taxi Alliance, who fears livelihoods are under threat by the overprovision of cabs in the city.
Chairman Andrew MacDonald said: “The Inverness taxi trade has not been consulted on any aspects affecting the present policy before going to committee.
“This is a council officials-driven decision based on their own narrow agenda.
“The taxi trade in Inverness is in a near state of collapse. The cake has been divided so thin that a slice will no longer provide an income to bring up a family.
“There are no benefits to the public in sustaining this policy, only negatives. Licencing are making easy and huge revenues from some of the highest fees in Scotland and are simply taking the easiest and most revenue gathering methods.”
Following Tuesday’s decision, the licensing committee issued a statement saying: “This follows consideration of a specialist and independent legal opinion commissioned to seek clarification of the council’s powers in this regard.
“The council commissioned the opinion in response to requests by some taxi and PHC operators, who operate predominantly in Inverness city, to restrict the number of vehicles licensed to operate within the city.
“Having considered the matter fully, the committee members agreed that the cost and practical difficulties inherent in introducing such restrictions were not outweighed by any potential benefit to the public.”
The committee said it was not prepared to spend in excess of £30,000 on a survey to look at “over-provision” of cabs, adding: “The committee did not consider it reasonable to incur such costs for the potential benefit of Inverness-based operators but at the expense of all Highland operators.”
Although Mr MacDonald questioned the £30,000 cost of a survey, he added: “Even £30,000 divided by 1,000 taxi licences, then by three for the number of years a license is valid, is approximately 20p per week for each driver/operator.
“I think the trade would happily take this on but the inflated figure indicates they are nervous about such a result.”
The Taxi Alliance meanwhile awaits a decision by the council relating to controversial proposals to shut the Castle Wynd rank – expected in May – before considering whether to withdraw labour – essentially go on strike – on Friday and Saturday nights in the city centre.