CHESHIRE East Council has the lowest percentage of wheelchair-accessible taxis across Cheshire, Manchester and Merseyside, according to disability activist research.

Just 21 per cent of the borough’s taxis are available to wheelchair users, compared to 89 per cent in neighbouring west Cheshire, 86 per cent across Greater Manchester and 93 per cent on Merseyside.

The information was requested of councils across the country by activist Doug Paulley on behalf of Muscular Dystrophy UK, after new Department for Transport guidance recommended that local authorities compile lists to protect disabled passengers from discrimination.

A change in the Equality Act enacted in April last year means that taxi drivers face fines of up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra.

But the rules only apply to vehicles named on section 167 lists, which councils need to create. Many haven’t done so despite a government-recommended deadline of October 2017.

But figures show that much of the north west – including CEC, which is in the process of reviewing its taxi policies and procedures – is lagging behind.

Nic Bungay, director of campaigns, care and information at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “Taxis are often the only way that disabled people can get from A to B when public transport isn’t an option but the new legislation simply isn’t working to help ensure they can do so safely and fairly.

“Doug’s research robustly demonstrates the impossible situation that many disabled people find themselves in.

“Passengers, taxi drivers and councils alike are crying out for clearer guidance, and we need to see the taxi lists made mandatory, to make this well-intentioned law workable.”

CEC’s current position is that all new to fleet vehicles in Crewe, Nantwich and Congleton must be wheelchair-accessible, and all driver must be able to assist passengers in wheelchairs and safely use any fixing equipment.

In response to the request for information in November 2017, a CEC spokesman said: “We are considering our position as part of our programmed review of all our taxi licensing policies and procedures, including conditions relating to all licenses.

“This is a large project which is ongoing and will be subject to the council’s democratic decision making processes, including consultation.”

The council is listed as having 103 accessible taxies, compared to CWAC’s 314, and is classed as ‘undecided whether producing a section 167 list’.