East Renfrewshire Council has been accused of discrimination after telling cabbies they don’t need to provide wheelchair access for disabled passengers.

The controversial decision has been slammed by disability rights campaigners, who are threatening legal action to have it overturned.

Last week, the council’s licensing committee agreed that new private hire licence applicants are no longer required to make their vehicles wheelchair accessible.

However, Disability Action ER (DAER) says it wasn’t consulted and claims the move is a breach of the council’s legal duty to carry out an Equality Impact Assessment before making major policy changes.

DAER chairman Michael McEwan, who is from Barrhead and has cerebral palsy, said: “The existing taxi policy developed from a six-year campaign in partnership with the licensing committee and the taxi trade and has increased the number of vehicles with wheelchair access from four to 40.

“This form of transport should be a right, not a luxury. The licensing board in its acceptance of a policy change without any impact assessment has left disabled people out in the cold.

“This decision will affect every person who needs to use a wheelchair in their daily lives, including the elderly.”

Michael, 37, said DAER will be writing to the local authority to demand it overturns the decision at the next full council meeting on April 28 – or face a possible legal challenge.

Retired civil servant Chris Baird, 53, from Barrhead, who is a wheelchair user, added: “I think it’s disgraceful that this decision was made without an equality impact assessment.

“Clearly, East Renfrewshire Council does not take its duties seriously. It would also appear that no-one on the licensing committee is aware of what their legal responsibilities are.

“Even though there are 40 taxis with wheelchair access, they are not always available or working.

“This move by the council is clearly a regressive step.”

Last week’s vote by councillors is a U-turn on a decision taken in 2017 to make wheelchair access compulsory on all new licence applications.

At that time, East Renfrewshire had only four taxis able to take wheelchair users – one of the lowest in Scotland.

A council spokesperson said: “We are committed to increasing the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles available for hire.

“This latest update to the policy will allow new private hire cars to become registered which are not wheelchair accessible but all new taxi registrations must still meet wheelchair accessibility criteria.

“The policy will be reviewed in 12 months’ time, when a full equality impact assessment will be carried out. Disability Action ER was given the opportunity to comment on this proposed change and was involved in the lengthy discussion at last week’s meeting when the policy was agreed.”