Headlines: February 23rd, 2007



Local authorities are being criticised today for imposing limits on the numbers of licensed taxis. The National Consumer Council says almost a third of councils in England are ignoring government advice by restricting the number of taxis and it claims their action is having damaging effects on their local communities.

The NCC has written to senior officials at 96 authorities urging them to abolish what it is calling ‘these unnecessary and anti-competitive restrictions’. In a briefing the Consumer Council says taxis are a vital component of local transport services. It sets out four key reasons why the limitations should be lifted, including the question of public safety. Taxi shortages, it says, encourage the use of unlicensed taxis and make it harder to clear town centres at night.

It says too that a market study by the Office of Fair Trading produced evidence that removing quantity restrictions would put more taxis on the road, reducing waiting times. In areas where the local authorities imposed no restrictions there were 30 per cent more taxis per head of population.

In its letters to councils the NCC is pointing out that restrictions on taxi numbers not only disadvantage consumers but also unfairly prevent newcomers entering the taxi trade, limiting the possibilities for innovation or improvements to services. NCC says it is acting in advance of a government review promised for later this year.

Steve Brooker, the organisation’s Senior Policy Advocate said that for many people, especially older residents and those without cars, taxis were an essential service. “A taxi may be the only way you can get to see the doctor or go shopping, for instance. Yet quantity controls can mean finding a licensed taxi when you most need one is a postcode lottery,” he said and added, “Our latest research shows that 2.4 million people used an unlicensed cab last year, with 16 to 24-year-olds most likely to do so.”