Edinburgh’s City Cabs threatens court over £2.4m contract

City Cabs has lost its key council contract. Picture: Neil Hanna

City Cabs has lost its key council contract. Picture: Neil Hanna

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A LEADING Edinburgh taxi company is threatening to take the city council to court over a £2.4 million contract awarded to a rival firm.

City Cabs is set to begin legal action after a bidding process to provide the council’s discounted taxi service for severely disabled residents.

Taxicard gives those with a permanent disability a fixed discount on taxi journeys, with the council reimbursing cab firms for the price cut.

Earlier this month, Central Radio Taxis won the contract – worth £600,000 annually – after a lengthy procurement exercise that began in June.

But City Cabs argues the council “breached a number of the fundamental principles of European law” in its handling of the bid. And the company’s solicitors are now calling on the council to “refrain from concluding the contract” and begin the process again – or start a new exercise entirely.

If this was not done by noon today, City Cabs would raise proceedings in the Court of Session “without further notice”. In a letter seen by the News, the firm’s lawyers, 
Morton Fraser, argue the council breached regulations that state authorities must “treat economic operators equally and without discrimination” and “act in a transparent and proportionate manner”.

They insisted the council had “discriminated” against City Cabs, adding: “But for the council’s failures, it is overwhelmingly likely that City Cabs would have been awarded the contract.”

City Cabs put forward a joint bid for the two-year contract – which has the option of being extended for another two years – with Edinburgh City Private Hire.

The company argues Central falls short of the council’s own key criteria by only providing black cabs and failing to deliver on its promised saloon cars – meaning those with disabilities such as hip replacements will struggle as they attempt to step into the higher cabs.

The Taxicard contract was previously shared by six of Edinburgh’s biggest taxi companies, including City Cabs, Central and Edinburgh City Private Hire. By awarding it to just one company at a cheaper rate, the council hopes to streamline the service and save £105,985.

Les McVay, company secretary at City Cabs, said disabled passengers would lose out under the new contract. He argued that the council could have kept the status quo and cut costs in other ways.

He said: “This is the first time we have ever objected to anything. We feel very strongly about this as it has not been handled properly as far as the council is concerned.”

Kevin Woodburn, director of Edinburgh City Private Hire, said he fully supported City Cabs’ formal challenge and revealed his firm would be petitioning the council to change its mind with the support of many of its disabled users.

But Central Taxis boss Tony Kenmuir said the company “stood by” its contract bid.

He said: “We are confident that our proposal to the council will meet the needs of all users of the taxi card service. The council also appear to be confident of that.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The council is in receipt of the letter from City Cabs’ solicitors and will respond appropriately.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com