The threat of industrial action by black cab drivers in Wolverhampton has been lifted after taxi trade representatives held talks with the city council.

A meeting between licensing bosses and the trade took place yesterday and an agreement has been reached on the way forward.

The trade had previously said it was considering industrial action in protest at changes to licensing conditions in the city which would have seen black cabs aged up to six years allowed to start working in the city. The change would have come into effect from April 1.

The council’s licensing committee agreed the change two years ago with cross party support as a way to get more black cabs working in the city – particularly at night when it was felt there were not enough taxis to support the night time economy.

The policy has been introduced in phases over the past two years and currently drivers of black cabs aged up to four years old are eligible to be granted a first license.

The council has listened carefully to the concerns of existing taxi drivers about extending that age limit to six years. Taxis drivers feel that there are already enough black cabs operating in Wolverhampton and because older vehicles would be cheaper to buy, they felt the policy would lead to an unsustainable increase in taxi numbers.

The council has now agreed to postpone implementing the six year rule pending the outcome of an independent study into the demand for black cabs in the city. The four year rule will remain in place until the outcome of the study which is expected to be towards the end of the year.

Councillor John Reynolds, Cabinet Member for City Services, said: “I’m pleased that we have been able to reach a compromise with the hackney carriage trade which means the threat of industrial action and disruption to the public has been averted.

Nobody wanted to see taxi drivers out on strike or doing go-slow drives causing congestion in our streets.

We’ve listened carefully to the concerns of the taxi trade and we feel the best way to resolve the issue of whether Wolverhampton has enough taxis is to commission an independent survey. We will ensure that the consultants who carry out this study are acceptable to all sides and when they report back later in the year we will look again at the licensing policies we have in place.”

Parminder Sekhon, from Wolverhampton Taxi Owners Association, said: “We are happy that the council has listened and agreed not to implement the six year rule. We’ve been calling on them to do this for the past two years. We certainly didn’t want to have to take industrial action and I’m pleased to say that it won’t now be happening.

An independent study is something we’ve wanted for many years and, providing it is truly independent, then it is the right way to determine whether Wolverhampton has the right supply of taxis for the demand there is out there.”

The council’s licensing committee will meet on March 25 to formally agree the commissioning of the taxi demand survey and the postponement of implementing the six year rule pending the outcome of the survey.