Licensing experts at Chorley Council have backed down after being threatened with legal action over its new taxi testing policy.
The authority had introduced a policy in February which required car inspectors to revoke the licence of the borough’s taxis and PHVs if the vehicles passed their MoT tests but an advisory notice was issued.
Arguing that the council’s policy was unlawful, a garage in Houghton Street, Chorley Autocare Ltd, alerted the council of its intention to commence judicial review proceedings to strike down the policy. It said that vehicle inspectors conducting MoT tests have no legal powers to carry out the instruction.
Paul Clitheroe, a director of Chorley Autocare and an approved MoT inspector, told the Chorley Guardian: “When you bring your car for its MoT test we must pass the vehicle if it meets the standards laid down by law. But we may issue an advisory notice to tell you how much tread you have left on your tyres or how much your brake pads have worn down so that the owner of the car has a clear idea of when they will need to be replaced.
“If the vehicle is a taxi or a private hire vehicle and we do what the council requires and suspend the vehicle’s licence until the tyre or brake pad in question has been replaced, even though it may have plenty of life left in it. That exposes taxi and PHV owners to unnecessary expense without any improvement to public safety.”
James Parry, a partner at solicitors Parry Welch Lacey LLP representing Mr Clitheroe, said: “Councils can only adopt policies which are lawful and proportionate. In this case the council is asking independent vehicle inspectors to act unlawfully by revoking minicab and taxi licences in circumstances where that can only be done by police officers or authorised council officers.
“Quite rightly my clients have declined to act in the unlawful manner demanded by the council.
”A letter was sent to the council on March 13 offering the body the chance to voluntarily revoke its taxi testing policy if it wished to avoid legal proceedings.”
Cllr Paul Walmsley, who oversees public safety issues for Chorley Council, said that the council was prepared to consider implementing a new policy on taxi testing. He said: “We take our taxi testing and licensing very seriously as the safety of taxi passengers, and other road users, is of paramount importance to us, so we make no apology for demanding the highest standards of maintenance for taxis.
“It was following concerns reported to us from people, including members of the taxi trade, regarding the condition of a number of Chorley taxis that led to the recent measures being introduced.
“The council’s own enhanced taxi test is of a higher standard than an MoT test to reassure people that our taxi vehicles in Chorley are the safest possible.
“Before introducing these measures we consulted widely, including within the taxi trade. However, we take on board some of the issues that have been raised since by Chorley Autocare and we are prepared to look at implementing a new policy on taxi testing and will re-consult with all council-appointed taxi testing stations.”