Fife Council is failing to implement a change in the Equality Act which protects disabled users from being discriminated against through overcharging by taxi services.
Fife Council is 1 of 18 local authorities in Scotland that are not committing to enforcing a new law ensuring equal treatment for disabled taxi users.
A change in the Equality Act enacted in April 2017 this year means that taxi drivers face a fine of up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra.
However, the law only applies to drivers registered on council lists of wheelchair accessible taxis, known as Section 167 lists. The Department for Transport has recommended that councils have them complete by this October 2017.
Disability activist Doug Paulley conducted Freedom of Information research with all councils in England, Scotland and Wales. Of them, only 11 per cent of councils have created a list, with a further 30 per cent intending to do so this year. That means 59 per cent have no firm plans to hit the deadline, including 26 per cent who have no plans to create a list at all.
Perth and Kinross is the only local authority in Scotland to enact the new law. Fife Council and 17 other local authorities have no intention of complying with the new law within the current financial year which exceeds the October deadline.
Paulley and charity Muscular Dystrophy UK, which campaigns for disability rights, are calling on the government to make councils take their responsibilities seriously, and for all councils to set a deadline for creating a list.
The research found that many councils were not aware of the role of the Section 167 lists and many were completely unaware of their responsibilities, even those with otherwise good track records on disability provision.
Nic Bungay, Director of Campaigns, Care and Information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, which lobbied for years for the law change, said:
“Taxis are not a luxury for disabled people – they often represent the only way to get from A to B when public transport isn’t accessible. Doug’s research comprehensively demonstrates how many councils are failing to ensure that disabled passengers are penalised. We need them all to implement lists now as per the government’s recommendations, and for the Department for Transport to promote the lists as a matter of urgency.”
Doug Paulley carried out the research following a Select Committee report into the Equality Act 2010 on disability. He says:
“It is disappointing that the Government’s intent in bringing in this legislation is being undermined by the failure of many councils to undertake the required office work, meaning that taxi drivers can continue to discriminate against wheelchair users with impunity. While conducting this research, it became clear that many councils simply didn’t think to create them until prompted. I recommend disabled people and their allies raise the issue with their local council.”
Research by Muscular Dystrophy UK in 2016 has indicated that a quarter of disabled people have been refused service by a taxi driver, purely because they are disabled.