Legal battle over Newport taxis cost taxpayers £342,000
TAXPAYERS will have to pay a cab bill of more than £300,000 following a dispute over the age of Newport’s Hackney carriage fleet.
The final bill for the cost of a judicial review over Newport City Council rules banning old taxis is £342,625.
The figure could be enough to buy at least ten hackney cabs, according to Lionel Morris, chairman of the Newport Hackney Carriage Drivers Association which brought the action against Newport council.
The judicial review in 2009 overturned a decision by the previous Tory and Liberal Democrat administration to impose age limits on Hackney carriages, meaning they could be no older than 12 years old.
Tory leader and former council leader Cllr Matthew Evans said he agreed that the costs were extortionate.
But he said the decision they took to go to consultation to ensure taxis were safe was “the right decision”
and had cross-party support at the time.
Cllr Evans said the fact that the association went with a no win, no fee arrangement and appointed “top class barristers from London” meant nobody won.
Newport council leader Bob Bright said the final and total costs for the judicial review to the council were £342,625.
This included the council’s legal costs of £10,640 and the other side’s costs, which were eventually settled for £331,975, including interest.
Cllr Bright said the case was brought on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis with a 100 per cent success fee.
The association’s Lionel Morris, who led the action against the council, said alternative proposals had been suggested: “All this could have been avoided.”
He said the average new Hackney cab costs £30,000 over five years, and he believed that there were 20 Hackney carriages on the road at the moment more than ten years old.
Gail Giles, cabinet member for licensing, said: “It’s a particular blow, at this time of financial difficulties, for the authority to take the burden of mistakes that were made by the previous administration.”
Labour councillor Allan Morris, the current chair of licensing, said it was “up to us to show that it never happens again”.
The council is currently consulting on new charges for taxi drivers, including higher fees for older vehicles.