TAXI drivers in Colchester could be hit with penalty points if they don’t have a means of accepting electronic payment and will be warned the device “must be working at all times”.

Colchester Council’s licensing committee is set to review proposed adjustments to the penalty for failing to comply with the new policy, which is set to go before the full council for a vote.

The committee will meet this evening after officers suggested the punishment be reduced from four penalty points to three.

A report said: “This change will bring the points into line with those given for first offences for a variety of other matters.”

Colchester Council’s licensing policy looks set to be changed to require cabbies to fit their vehicles with a means to accept electronic payments as well as cash.

An officer’s report says card payments have become the norm for a large percentage of the population and a disparity within the trade is causing problems for customers.

In a consultation with drivers, 36 out of 48 who took part responded positively to the proposed changes.

Gazette: The taxi rank in Colchester High StreetThe taxi rank in Colchester High Street (Image: Newsquest)

The survey also suggested most drivers in the city already accept card payments.

However, not all taxi drivers were in favour, with some appearing at a licensing committee meeting on Wednesday to oppose the plans.

One, Stewart Beer, said: “The penalty for drivers failing to comply, that’s horrendous and draconian.”

Councillor Roger Mannion (Con, Tiptree) said: “I am uneasy, actually to be fair, with the forced use of card machines.

"As members of the trade have said, it’s a business.

"They should have the voluntary ability to choose if they want a card machine or not.”

Councillor Tim Young (Labour, Greenstead) responded by saying that because drivers are ambassadors of the council, it should be able to decide the conditions they work under.

Gazette: Colchester mayor Tim YoungColchester mayor Tim Young (Image: Newsquest)

He said: “Whether cash will completely die out in the future, who knows, but that’s the way its going and I just think we’ve got to put the customers first.

“Young people today wouldn’t dream of carrying cash about with them, they use their phone. They don’t even use cards, they use their phone to pay and that’s what we’ve got to take on board.”

He also said he was concerned about signal black spots in the city which would prevent card machines from working.

However, he agreed drivers would be able to identify these in advance when they asked customers where they wanted to go.

Councillor Patricia Moore (Con, Mersea and Pyefleet) said: “Listening to the concerns of the drivers, it does seem to me that when you go to a taxi rank and you ask to be taken somewhere, you usually say the destination, where you want to go.

“The taxi driver will know if the reception is bad at that place and that is the point where he can say to the passenger, it will have to be either card upfront or cash, your choice.”

in January, the committee voted to recommend the changes to full council, meaning there is one more vote left before the policy is amended.