Revealed: Wakefield Council's legal bill for High Court taxi case
Wakefield Council spent £13,500 on its doomed legal defence against a case brought by local taxi drivers.
The local authority was deemed to be overcharging cabbies for a trade licence by the High Court in December 2018, in what was viewed as a landmark case.
That ruling was upheld by the Court of Appeal a year later after the council argued against the verdict.
Figures released under the Freedom of Information Act have revealed £11,250 of taxpayer's money, plus £2,250 worth of VAT, was spent on legal fees for the case.
After a conclusion was reached in December, the council accused the High Court of not offering enough "clarity" during the original ruling and suggested they had cost the council "time and money" as a result.
Its defence was backed by the Local Government Association, which represents councils all over the country, many of whom regulated taxi licences in the same way as Wakefield.
The local authority was charging £384 for a licence, a fee which included costs for punishing drivers who break the rules.
But judges said that approach is unlawful and will have to change.
Asked for comment on the size of the legal bill, the council said it had nothing further to add beyond its statement about the case conclusion in December.
The Wakefield and District Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Association, which represents drivers, claimed the verdict would cost the council £1m in payments to drivers dating back to 2004.
The council disputes that figure, however.
What the council said when the case concluded in December
Glynn Humphries, service director for environment, said: “The legal position as to where enforcement costs could be attributed was unclear and today’s judgement has clarified that the costs of enforcement should be met by the taxi trade through fees and should not be subsidised by the council tax payer.
“We very much welcome the clarity from today’s judgement but are disappointed we didn’t get this in the High Court last year, which would have saved everyone involved time and money.
“The council will now review our position in light of the judgement and set up a process to enable drivers to log any claims as easily as possible and try and ensure we assess the claims as quickly as we can.
"We strongly believe that the £1million figure quoted by the taxi trade association does not apply to Wakefield at all. The fees were only applied to vehicles in January 2018 and charges were paused as we sought clarity from the court, which means that no drivers have been charged for this activity from December 2018.
"Going forward we will ensure that all charges are set against the criteria confirmed by the court today."