The council, like many others in the region, restricts the number of hackney carriage vehicle licences it issues, but it must also undertake an ‘unmet demand’ survey every three years to justify its policy.
The survey, carried out in September and October 2021, when some Covid restrictions were still in place, found that more than 50 per cent of people were having to wait at ranks and found there was “a clear need for increased hackney carriage availability”.
As of April, there were 157 people on the waiting list for a hackney carriage licence.
But Mr Smith told councillors there was “no need” as there was less trade and fewer taxi ranks in the city as locations such as Piccadilly have been replaced with cycle racks.
He said: “I’m doing 75 per cent of my trade, but I’m doing 20 more hours work than I was before Covid – do you want us to work seven days a week?
“There’s no need for nine more plates – where are you going to park them? You’ve shut all our taxi ranks. We’ve got Saviourgate and the Minster rank, Duncombe Place – which is overrun by takeaway drivers.”
The unmet need survey noted that many drivers left the trade during Covid and that while this number has not fully recovered, there has been some increase in drivers returning in recent months.
Mr Smith said he had taken recent photos of 14 taxis waiting on St Saviourgate.
“There’s no work for us,” he said. “And now you’re deeming to punish us by putting nine more plates on to the ranks.”
While a decision has not yet been taken on the number of licences to be issued, the council has said that any new vehicles should be wheelchair accessible and fully electric or hybrids.
Mr Smith claimed it was the private hire sector that needed more accessible vehicles as disabled people prefer to plan their journeys, rather than relying on flagging down hackney carriages.
Coun Andy D’Agorne, executive member for transport, said he supported the principle of having more electric and accessible taxis.
He said: “The unmet demand identified the need to increase the numbers that we have available and the recommendations will help with our air quality standards.
“They will also help with increasing the percentage of wheelchair accessible hackney carriages available, so I very much support this.”
Joe Cooper, Local Democracy Reporting Service