A CONSULTATION on wheelchair-accessible taxis has been branded a “complete waste of time” by angry campaigners.

East Renfrewshire Disability Action (ERDA) has hit out over a council-run public meeting which aimed to address a lack of specialist vehicles.

The region currently has just two specialist taxis and posts some of the lowest figures in the country for its ratio of wheelchair-accessible cabs.

ERDA had hoped the public meeting would provide a clearer understanding of how East Renfrewshire Council plans to tackle the issue.

However, members say they were left none the wiser about what the local authority will do to encourage taxi firms to increase the number of specialist vehicles.

ERDA chairman Michael McEwan told of his frustration at being “left in the lurch” following the event at Williamwood High.

He said: “The consultation was a complete waste of time.

“Disabled people feel badly let down by the three Barrhead councillors on the licensing committee - councillors Hay, Cunningham and Reilly.

“These three councillors hold the balance of power, yet over the five years the committee has been sitting, very little has been done to effectively address this issue.

“We were making the case again that they are the third-worst authority in Scotland. I don’t know when they need to take it on board to be embarrassed about it.

“When I came back from the meeting, I felt like I’d been hitting my head off a brick wall. They’re not willing to come up with a solution.”

Fellow ERDA member Chris Baird added: “This isn’t rocket science or solving the Middle East peace process, it’s about disabled people being able to get a taxi just like everyone else, as stated in the council’s own Equality Outcomes report.

“The council’s words are not backed up by action. Talk is cheap and actions speak louder than words.”

However, members of the council’s licensing committee insist they are doing all they can to find a solution.

Councillor Tommy Reilly said: “It’s quite a complicated issue. I’m disappointed we haven’t made any progress over the past few years.

“We’ve tried to put some inducements in place, like a free licence. The problem is we have a lot of drivers who are self-employed, so we don’t want to be seen to be putting in punitive measures.

“We’re in the process of putting these ideas into a proposition and, hopefully, they’ll make a difference.”

Cllr Kenny Hay added: “I can understand why the group want more but what we can’t do is force the taxi drivers to comply.

“We’ve spoken to the taxi drivers and they’ve said, if they were forced, they’d hand their licence in.

“It’s about the cost of getting a new vehicle or modifying the vehicle they currently have.

“Every one of us sympathise with ERDA. We certainly need more wheelchair-accessible taxis and don’t want people to have to get taxis from outside the area.

“In a perfect world, we would say all taxis must comply.”

Cllr Betty Cunningham added: “Proposals have been put forward and the licensing committee has accommodated all the meetings.

“We are trying to get the best solution for all parties.”

A council spokesman said a range of views were put forward at the public meeting, all of which will help to shape proposals to encourage an increase in the number of wheelchair-accessible taxis and private hire vehicles.

He added: “The comments will be reviewed and a report will be submitted to a future licensing committee for consideration.

“We are committed to tackling this important issue and continue to work hard to find an agreeable solution.”