A prominent figure in the Guildford Hackney Carriage Association has had his licence suspended during a row over the colour of his taxi.
Guildford Borough Council ordered all hackney carriage drivers to cover their cabs in “corporate teal” plastic cladding from Monday January 1.
But when Mark Rostron refused the council suspended his hackney carriage licence for two months, using powers set out in the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.
Mr Rostron, who has been chairman of the Guildford Hackney Carriage Association for ten years, claims the council used section 68 of the act to suspend his licence for two months and if he refuses to change the colour of his cab his licence will be revoked.
“I was surprised,” he said. “They should have used section 60 of the act, where they have the power to suspend vehicles that are not fit for use.
“As the High Court has said, that section of the act gives me the right to appeal to the magistrates and carry on working.
“I have lost at least a week’s work already, it’s not a good feeling. It’s outrageous behaviour. They are putting people out of work,” he said.
“Unless these drivers have some other way earning a living, they (the council) are effectively saying we will take you out of work for two months and you can appeal after that.
“Either I present the vehicle to them clad in plastic or nothing happens and two months after the notice was served my hackney carriage licence will be revoked.
“At that point, I have the right to appeal to the magistrates.”
The disgruntled driver says he managed to lodge an earlier appeal using section 47 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act.
He can now use his car as a private hire vehicle - as opposed to a hackney carriage - but he is determined to battle against the council’s decision and take further legal action.
He said: “They’re putting drivers off the road for no good reason and abusing acts of Parliament to do it. It’s disgraceful.
“What I’m doing now is going to Houses of Parliament to look at Hansard to see what MPs and Lords said about the act and what guidance was given to them.
“If they talked about it there would have been a section (section 68) for mechanical difficulties.”
It is not the first time the council has been challenged in court over its livery policy.
Last year, driver Ben Simmonds lodged an appeal against the policy but it was dismissed and he was ordered to pay £11,000 in legal costs.
A council spokes-man said: “We do not comment on individual cases.
“However, we do have the legal authority to suspend a taxi driver’s licence because of the vehicle’s appearance under section 68 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and as such we have acted correctly.
“The council has adopted a livery policy to make licensed taxis easily identifiable for reasons of public safety.”
“This policy has not been challenged and has now been implemented,” said the spokesman.
“All taxi licence holders were ad-vised of the policy change and have been reminded on a number of occasions of the deadline to comply with it.
“The council even contributed to the cost of livery changes for those taxi licence holders that wished to adopt the policy early.”
Mmmm… How many times have we commented on the ongoing saga of the Guildford Wrap (or whatever else you care to call it, enforcing this un-fortunate colour on their taxis). We believe that Mr Rostron is quite correct in his stance about section 68; however, we also have trawled through the Hansard debates from 1975/76 on the subject of section 68 in respect of similar situations in other licensing authorities, and did not find anything conclusive of any use. The crux of the problem lies in the word “policy”: this should have been stopped in its tracks three years ago, by way of Judicial Review. Unfortunately that was tried, and was not successful in its execution. So the taxi licence holders in Guildford are stuck with this “policy” (not condition, which could have been successfully appealed through the Magistrates’ Court). – Ed.