Taxi firm in Middlesbrough attacked for refusing to carry disabled passengers

Owner of largest firm in the North East of England concedes move is 'morally wrong' but he says had no choice but to act after local authority warns operators over charging disabled passengers extra

Disability rights campaigners have called a taxi firm’s decision to stop carrying people in wheelchairs “outrageous”.

The owner of Middlesbrough’s Boro Taxis, the largest firm in the North East of England, conceded the move was “morally wrong” but said he had had no choice but to act after the local authority warned operators could lose their licences by charging disabled passengers extra.

Middlesbrough Council said it believed the move could be discriminatory. It followed a report for the authority which suggested that wheelchair users were being charged up to twice the price of their able-bodied counterparts.

Owner Mohammed Bashir said it was uneconomic to send “specialist” eight-seater minibuses to pick up disabled customers if it was required to charge the same price as it did for a smaller four-door vehicle.

“Morally it is totally wrong and I sympathise with disabled people. My mother was in a wheelchair and I understand exactly the situation.  We have been put in a situation that if we do supply your taxi we will be in front of the licensing committee and we will lose our operators’ licence and that is what it is about,” he told BBC Tees:

“The simple fact is if you order a car and four people jump in you are charged for a taxi. If you order an eight-seater minibus and eight people jump in you are charged for a minibus. If you order a minibus and there's only one person you will still be charged for a minibus because that's what you ordered. But because we are charging for a minibus we are breaking the law,” he added. Mr Bashir was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Sue Bott, director of policy and development for campaign group Disability Rights UK said she believed the move could be contrary to the 2010 Equality Act. She said:  “I am absolutely outraged. For goodness sake what is all this about? We are in a society and everybody should be able to take their place on an equal basis. Could you imagine if a taxi driver refused to take someone in their cab because they were black? There would be complete outrage.

“The question you have to ask yourself is why do they think they could get away with it? In our society what we are seeing is that disabled people are being made the scapegoats – the ones who must pay the price for our present economic difficulties,” she added.

Sarah Clifford of The Disabilities Trust said people with mobility and other issues already faced considerable problems accessing suitable transport. There is insufficient capacity on buses whilst wheelchair users were required to book ahead on train journeys to arrange for a ramp and assistance. “It does seem like an extraordinary decision and I hope the council will look into it,” she said.

Middlesbrough Council’s licensing committee published a report last week into claims of overcharging following complaints by members of the public. It concluded such actions potentially constituted a breach of equality legislation and has written to firms warning them that licences could be reviewed if the practice continues.  Deputy mayor Dave Budd said companies had a “moral obligation to treat everybody the same”.

Last year a taxi firm in Hull scrapped a £10 charge it imposed on wheelchair users following complaints by a customer.

In 2011 a long –running row between Boro Taxis and the council over dropping off and picking up rights in the town was resolved. It followed the release of tape recordings made by Mr Bashir of private conversations he had with former close associate Middlesbrough mayor Ray Mallon.

A subsequent Standards Board for England inquiry found Mr Mallon had breached its code of conduct after investigating complaints over how the former senior police officer mayor had handled the dispute. The same year, Boro Taxis’ parent group, Middlesbrough Borough Cars, reported pre-tax profits of £223,072 in 2011 on a turnover of £2.46m.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior / Graduate Application Support Engineer

£26000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful international media organ...

QA Manager - North Manchester - Nuclear & MOD - £40k+

£35000 - £41000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: QA Manager -...

Property Finance Partner

Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

Agile Tester

£28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried