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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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

MBDA UK Ltd: Mission Planning and Control Solutions Systems Engineer

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? A pro-act...

MBDA UK Ltd: System Design Capability

Competitive salary & benefits: MBDA UK Ltd: What’s the opportunity? The small...

Recruitment Genius: Production / Manufacturing Operative

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading garage door manufacturer are curr...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Software / Solution Sales

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a thri...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific