SUPPORT us or lose us, that was the message of Portsmouth taxi drivers to councillors at a lengthy licensing meeting.
More than 20 cabbies attended the committee yesterday (March 22) to share their views on plans to change licensing rules for taxis and hackney carriages in the city.
Councillors sided with the drivers and debated ways to boost the trade including extending the time that their cars can be allowed on the road and allowing a grace period between a car failing its mechanical tests and getting it fixed.
Currently rules in Portsmouth stipulate that a car cannot be more than three years old when it starts being used as a taxi and can no longer be licensed at all once it is eight years old.
However, members of the committee sought to adapt this allowing for cars up to four years old and not taking them off the road as soon as they are eight years old, but only if they are unable to pass a mechanical test indefinitely.
Tory councillor Ian Lyon said: 'We know that in the last five or six years vehicles have improved significantly and are made more roadworthy for much longer.
'And clearly the point that we should be taking is that in 2015 test failures for cars aged between three and six was 72 per cent, and in 2017 it was 29 per cent. It seems to reflect the fact that vehicles are better made or more appropriate for town use than they might have been in the past.'
Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson agreed. He added: 'If a vehicle has failed and continues to fail then I understand it needs to go off the road. But if it fails and passes why do we have this artificial thing of saying it can't be on the road any more just because of its age?'
Currently taxis in Portsmouth have to to be tested, similar to an MOT, once every two years if they are three years old or less, and every year if four years or above.
If they fail a test the car is not allowed on the road until it is fixed. But it could fail on aesthetic grounds such as having a dent or stained upholstery.
Cllr Steve Pitt said: 'Bear in mind that we are dealing with people's livelihoods here. They don't know when it goes to the garage if it's going to fail. Why don't we allow for a couple of days grace period?'
Councillors agreed that if the cars were still roadworthy they should be allowed two working days to get sorted, allowing drivers to keep working in that time.
Suggestions from committee members were met with applause from taxi drivers.
Viv Young, who has a share in Portsmouth cab firm City Wide Taxis, said: 'We are competing with hundreds of other out-of-town taxi firms. If you want to keep supporting Pompey trades you need to support us.'
Officers advised that the changes, which were not what had been recommended, could not be made during the meeting.
Another meeting will be held on April 12 to consider councillors' amendments.