TAXI drivers facing orders to change to expensive wheelchair-freindly vehicles are hoping for a u-turn by Wyre Forest District Council in the wake of fresh Government guidance.

The council has decreed that all hackney carriages must be wheelchair accessible by 2013 but the Government is now calling on local authorities to take part in further consultation over the summer after claims that many disabled people cannot easily use the specially designed vehicles.

The European Conference of Ministers of Transport Taxi Group is also recommending mixed fleets of accessible taxis and Disability Action Wyre Forest is urging that up to 25 per cent of the district's hackney carriages be left as ordinary saloon cars.

A landmark court judgement that Milton Keynes District Council had acted "unreasonably" in forcing its hackney carriage licensees to run a 100 per cent wheelchair accessible fleet has added further fuel to the fire in the battle to allow mixed fleets.

Wyre Forest Taxi Association spokesman, Trevor Owen, said it was hoped that their alternative proposals for a mixed fleet would be considered by the licensing committee in June.

The association is calling for new licence holders to be forced to buy wheelchair accessible vehicles but for existing licence holders to be able to continue running saloon cars.

Mr Owen said this solution would ensure there was a mixed fleet and protect the livelihoods of existing hackney carriage licence holders, warning that if the council did not agree a u-turn, a number of taxi drivers who have to change their vehicles under the seven-year rule this summer would be forced out of business.

Council Leader, Conservative councillor, John Campion, however, insisted that the current 36 per cent of wheelchair accessible taxis operating in Wyre Forest was not good enough.

"I want to see free access for all and I make no apology that we are driving up the standards," he said.

Mark Lawley, of Disability Action Wyre Forest, said if all taxis were wheelchair accessible, certain people would find them difficult to use.

"A minimum of 75 per cent would give positive action to people who have rights under the 1995 Disability Discrimination Act and 2005 amendment of the Disability Discrimination Act," he added.

Independent Health Concern Leader, councillor Howard Martin, urged the council to defer introducing the new regulations until the outcome of the Government consultation is known later in the year.