Taxi drivers could face an extra charge by licensing bosses to take the “burden” off Edinburgh City Council to ensure vehicles are roadworthy.
Councillors supported proposals to potentially charge taxi and private hire vehicles an additional £27.43 for a re-test at the council’s taxi examination centre – even if it is brought back within the ten-day window, which is currently done free of charge.
In their report, council officers said re-testing vehicles “inevitably contributes to workload, and to waiting times for test dates for other applicants”. The service “has continued to see some pressure”, according to regulatory service manager Andrew Mitchell, due to new emissions standards and the increase in the growth in the private hire fleet.
A consultation will take place with taxi and private hire drivers before any firm proposals to charge for a re-test are brought forward later this year.
Tony Kenmuir, chairman of Central Taxis, has called for a common sense approach by the council.
He said: “From our point of view, I have slight mixed feelings about it. I think our starting point is we are all in favour of maintaining the Edinburgh taxi fleet to a very high standard.
“We have some concerns that there are people who will wait and see what the council fail it on rather than get their taxi up to a standard.
“We have to go to the council garage and have to pay £363, rather than the £50 that normal drivers pay. Mostly the standards they apply are the same as the MOT but can take into account the cleanliness or interior.”
He added: “It seems to me in the £363 we are paying them, there should be enough wriggle-room for something minor to be looked at quickly, rather than pay an extra £27.
“We hope the application will be done in a balanced, fair and reasonable way. If there’s someone running a taxi that’s unsafe, I’m glad they want to do something about it – but we hope there will be the application of some common sense.
“They don’t have enough inspectors to keep up with the demand because of the massive increase in vehicles, largely private hires, they now have to test. For the most part, the examiners are pretty reasonable and we just hope there will be an application of common sense.”
Officers said that a failure by applicants to turn up to appointments and accommodating retests within 10 days “has a negative impact on the efficient use of resources and adversely affects the taxi examination centre’s ability to offer test dates to other applicants”.
Cllr Cameron Rose said: “I think we have to be very careful that the service we provide is affordable. However, in this case, I think we are shouldering quite a burden of lost hours here and there’s no remedy for that as things stand at the moment.
“I would welcome a report back on how we might address that in the future.”
Once staffing levels have been increased, it is proposed to introduce “risk-based inspections” on licence holders whose vehicles have “poor records of maintenance” or are identified as having “serious defects at inspection, or are presented for inspection in an unsafe condition”.