Wrangle set to upset disabled and elderly

Melton cabbie Robert Croft with regular passenger Sharon Burrows using the stool he uses to help disabled people in and out of the vehicle EMN-151027-093910001

Melton cabbie Robert Croft with regular passenger Sharon Burrows using the stool he uses to help disabled people in and out of the vehicle EMN-151027-093910001

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Disabled and elderly people in Melton could soon struggle to find transport around the borough because of a town cabbie’s wrangle with council licensing officers.

Robert Croft runs one of only two taxis in the area which are accessible for wheelchair-bound passengers and those with mobility problems.

But Mr Croft has been told by Melton Council that he must replace a one-foot step on the side of his vehicle after he removed it when it was damaged in a recent road accident.

He says he can’t afford the £800 it would cost but if he doesn’t the council will not allow him to carry passengers with a disability and those who struggle to walk.

The council insists that a stool he has been using to help customers in and out of his vehicle is unsafe because it is not sturdy enough.

Mr Croft, who operates Freddy’s Cabs and who has driven taxis across the Melton area for more than 32 years, said: “I pick up elderly and disabled passengers all the time outside all the care homes in Melton, Scalford and Waltham and patients at the head injury hospital.

“If my cab is taken off the road there will only be one left to carry all these people so they will have a hard job trying to get around.

“They will have to start booking taxis in Leicester and other surrounding towns and that will cost more to get them to come over here.”

Mr Croft has a ramp which comes out of the side of his cab for people using wheelchairs and he also has the stool available for disabled people to step on to help them get in and out but he has only had to use that once.

Two of his regular passengers are Sharon Burrows, who struggles to walk far after being born with a twisted spine, and her 11-year-old disabled son Charles, who needs it to get to and from John Ferneley College five days a week.

Mrs Burrows (43), of West Avenue, Melton, said: “I think it’s disgusting the council is making Robert do this and I don’t know what we will do if he can’t pick us up anymore.

“A lot of people use Robert’s taxi and we rely on him to take us everywhere.”

Mr Croft often transports customers of Mobility and Lifestyle, which sells mobility scooters from their premises on Wilton Road.

The company’s manager, Steve De-Cantelupe, said: “On our database there are over 600 people who use mobility scooters in this area and then there are also the wheelchair-users too.

“A lot of our customers have said they are worried what will happen if Robert isn’t able to drive them around anymore.”

Melton Council said the issue over Mr Croft’s vehicle was reported to the authority after a passenger told them she had been injured while using the foot stool because it was unstable.

Jim Worley, the council’s head of regulatory services, said: “It is a requirement of Mr Croft’s licence conditions that vehicles are maintained in accordance with manufacturers specifications, but the step has been broken since 2014.

“Mr Croft has therefore been instructed to repair the step, which is installed into the vehicle specifically to allow disabled access.”

Mr Worley pointed out that vehicles with disabled access benefit from a 25 per cent relief from their licencing fees, which is currently £202.

He added: “Mr Croft has been told how to appeal this instruction by the council if he considers it unfair, but he has not taken up the option to appeal to date.”