IN a bid to encourage taxi drivers to provide wheelchair-accessible vehicles, Stroud District Council is halving the cost of taxi licence application fees for those providing vehicles which can accommodate passengers in wheelchairs.

Currently, new applications for taxis licences cost £150 and annual renewals £120.

But now 50 per cent of this licence fee will be waived for those who can provide wheelchair accessible taxis and private hire vehicles, licensed between June 1 and May 30 2015.

Vehicles to be licensed to carry wheelchairs must meet Stroud District Council’s criteria to ensure passenger safety and there are currently only two taxi companies and three private hire vehicles licensed in the Stroud district which are wheelchair accessible.

In addition to taxis, VCA Stroud (Voluntary and Community Action) operates a ring and ride transport service and have vehicles that can accommodate wheelchairs.

Principal licensing officer for Stroud District Council, Rachel Andrew, said it was a small sum that would be saved but it is a step in the right direction.

“There are currently only a few accessible taxis available in the district which allow passengers to sit in their wheelchairs in the vehicle,” she said.

“We’d like to see more and hopefully this 12-month trial will encourage taxi drivers to make the move.

“With an increasingly elderly population it is more important than ever that we are able to provide services to meet their needs.”

Service manager at Lifeways, Nick Hodder is supportive of the move, as he said that there had been a case when someone could not attend a family function due to her vehicle breaking down.

“Unable to find a local wheelchair accessible taxi available, she had to approach companies from outside the district, who quoted fares of £80 to come out and make the three mile round trip,” he said.

Jan Marriott and Zara Humphrey are chairwomen of the Gloucestershire Learning Disability Partnership Board and said the move was great news that their feedback was being listened to.#

“This could potentially lead to more disabled access taxis making it easier for people with disabilities to get out and about easily within their local community, helping them to live more independent lives.”

The trial was approved by the council’s licensing committee and begins in June.

Contact numbers for wheelchair accessible taxis are on Stroud District Council’s website

For further information call the licensing team at Stroud District Council on 01453 754440.