Daily Echo: Taxis in Southampton

TAXI drivers in Southampton could bring the city to a standstill over a double council U-turn they say will hit their livelihoods.

Angry cabbies say they could strike and blockade the city centre if council chiefs go back on plans to help pay for CCTV cameras and extend the lifespan of city taxis.

They are also threatening legal action against city chiefs.

The row has erupted because council officers want to scrap the £250 subsidy to fit controversial “spy” cameras in ever cab, which it made compulsory back in 2009.

It would mean drivers having to pay the full £700 cost themselves.

They also want to limit the lifespan of cabs to seven years, ten if they are wheelchair adapted.

Councillors on the licensing committee are due to vote on the measures today.

Both would reverse decisions made last September.

Cabbies have reacted furiously saying it comes at a time when finances are tough for many in the trade.

Clive Johnson, from the Southampton Trade Association, said: “There is talk about demonstrations and blockading, because we are angry about the fact that the councillors voted to extend the lifespan, but now they want to overturn it really quickly.

“If drivers demonstrate it could bring the city to a standstill.”

Kevin May, from Radio Taxis, said: “They gave us an extension of two years and if they take that away I will take them to court.

“It was democratically voted on by the councillors and it is the only thing they have given us in the last seven to eight years that will help drivers a little bit financially.

“We aren’t asking for that much – in Eastleigh the lifespan is 15 years for renewals. We are just fed up about it – it stinks.”

Council chiefs want to scrap the £250 subsidy due to “parlous” financial situation.

They say that Associated British Ports, the Southampton Hoteliers Association and Destination Southampton had “expressed their concern” on how older vehicles would “affect their organisations and the image of the city to potential investors or visitors” after the original decision was made.

The ultimate decision lay with council leader Simon Letts. He said: “After the original decision we got some correspondence from members of the business community suggesting that they were disturbed and disappointed by the original decision.

“Also, the older the car the more pollutants it will be producing.

“So I asked for the committee to have another look at it. They may decide they are happy with the original decision, that’s up to the committee.”

The council has said it will wait until April 2016 to bring back the old policy in fairness to drivers who have put plans in place since the original decision was made in September.