Cabbies claim laws unfair

A TAXI firm has admitted that it is able to skirt regulations binding local cabbies in order to serve customers in Bexhill.

Adam Brugnell, manager of Road Runners UK at its base in London Road, Bexhill, said: “Due to a loophole in the local laws and regulations we are within our rights to operate wherever we are needed, which is why we have been able to operate in Bexhill and local areas without the need for Rother licences or their approval.”

But this has infuriated Rother cabbies, who believe that any taxi firm operating regularly within the district should have to pay the same fees and meet the same high standards that they do.

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They must pay for a licence plate to operate in Rother - white for hackney carriages, which can be hailed on the street, and yellow for private hire vehicles, which cannot.

Twice a year they must put their cars through a compliance test - a more rigorous form of MoT - and pay for and pass criminal record bureau (CRB) and, after age 45, health checks, every three and five years respectively.

With the annual fee for plates set to rise from £165 to £205 in April, Rother’s drivers have been angered by Road Runners registering its cars elsewhere, where costs and conditions are not so imposing.

Last year the combined cost of hackney carriage driver and vehicle licences in neighbouring Wealden, for instance, was £255, whereas in Rother it was £345. In Hastings, it was £286.

Failure to meet the council’s requirements can result in Rother drivers having penalty points added to their taxi licences or even being suspended.

Road Runners’ Mr Brugnell said: “Our cars have an MoT once a year and our staff would have at some point been CRB checked.

“I appreciate Rother Council is very strict with its own taxi drivers and companies ... this does exceed our own cars but I assure Bexhill that we also have a service once a year at a garage of our choice.

“We are not allowed to transport customers from the (London Road) office in non-Rother hackney vehicles as we would have to hold RDC vehicle licences and without them would be breaking the law.”

Mr Brugnell said Road Runners could not always guarantee the same car twice and had to call in cars and drivers from as far afield as Haywards Heath or even “ask other companies to cover our ever-increasing workload.”

But Bexhill taxi driver Bernie Randall claimed: “They can get away with sticking two fingers up to Rother as they know its officers are too scared to do anything about it until there is another change in the law.”

Mr Randall believed Road Runners was able to operate outside Rother’s regulations because it traded as an internet company, taking bookings on computer, but questioned why this should exempt it.

He was backed by Rother District Taxi Drivers’ Association chairman, Dave Dickens-Smith, who said: “There seems to be one law for one, and one law for another. Surely Rother has a duty of care to ensure consistency?

“However, I’m glad that customers can see the differences for themselves and are thus able to make their own informed choices.”

PICTURED: Rother District Taxi Drivers’ Association chairman Dave Dickens-Smith with passenger