Taxis in Waterford City have increased tenfold since deregulation and the vast majority of them now struggle to make a living, so much so that some are contemplating going on the dole.

The situation was outlined by City Councillor John Halligan when he appealed to the government this week to suspend the issuing of any further licences for at least two years.

Cllr Hannigan made his plea at Monday night’s Council meeting, saying that licences were being issued without any consideration as to need, or the devastating effect of over-supply on existing licence holders.

He agreed that deregulation was required at the time it was introduced because more taxis were needed in most cities around the country. But the outcome in Waterford was that the number of taxis rose from 40 to 430, which far outstripped demand.

“Many of the drivers now find themselves seeking other part-time employment to make ends meet, or they are considering quitting and going on social welfare”, he said.

And not alone had they to cope with a very low return for long and unsocial working hours, which often had negatives consequences for family life, but instances of assault and abuse were dramatically increasing.

Cllr Jim D’Arcy agreed. He said deregulation, although needed at the time of its introduction, had the effect of depriving traditional taxi drivers of a proper livelihood. The situation now was unfair and unsustainable.

Cllr. Pat Hayes said ongoing deregulation was a nonsense, which any other profession or business would not tolerate. Some taxis were getting their licences in neighbouring jurisdictions and operating in Waterford and some were also “cowboys”.

Calling for proper regulation of the service, Cllr Joe Kelly drew attention to the effects of deregulation in the financial and banking sector.

Cllr Cha O’Neill said the taxis for whom he had most sympathy were those who re-mortgaged their homes in order to buy licenses before deregulation. They were now in trouble, he said.

A copy of the proposal, which was passed unanimously, is to be sent to other local authorities for support and also, on the suggestion of Cllr Mary Roche, to the Minister for Transport.