THE threat of strike action by Southampton cabbies has been averted.
Angry taxi drivers had threatened to blockade the city centre and take legal action if city council chiefs ploughed ahead with a controversial reversal of their policy.
But yesterday the council’s licensing committee voted against reducing the lifespan of Southampton taxis by two years.
The committee had only voted in September to extend the lifespan of cabs to nine years, or 12 if they are wheelchair adapted, to give hard-pressed members of the trade some financial respite.
But city council leader Simon Letts had brought it back before the committee after Associated British Ports, the Southampton Hoteliers Association and Destination Southampton wrote to the council.
They expressed their “concern” at the committee’s decision in September, saying older vehicles would affect the image of the city, while there were also concerns that older vehicles could lead to more emissions.
But after cabbies argued their case at the meeting yesterday, the committee unanimously voted to reject council officers’ recommendations to reduce the lifespan back to the original levels of seven and ten years.
Committee member Don Thomas said it was only back before them due to “lobbying”, while colleague Beryl Harris summed up the panel’s feelings when she said: “We are elected councillors and we made a decision through the democratic process, so why should that be overturned by three letters?”
Some taxi drivers had said they would “bring the city to a standstill” and take legal action if the change had gone through, but the committee’s decision has now averted any action.
Cabbies were left disappointed during a chaotic meeting after the committee voted to withdraw a subsidy, meaning they would only have to pay £250 for the cost of taxicams.
The subsidy was introduced alongside the cameras, which are compulsory for all drivers, back in 2009.
But from September drivers and proprietors must foot the entire bill of more than £700 to fit the cameras as the council looks to cut costs.
Some councillors were unhappy that they were not presented with the option of making cameras voluntary after the subsidy ends.
Members of the trade had appealed to the council to keep the subsidy, arguing that it was “unfair” to force them to keep the cameras without any financial help.
The council is now set to write to Hampshire Police and Crime Commissioner Simon Hayes in a bid to get some funding to subsidise the cameras.