Taxi drivers are being forced out of the industry because of a council policy which dictates vehicles have to be white, a cabbie has said.

Hackney carriages could be any colour until Lewes District Council imposed the scheme in 2019.

James Kiernan, shop steward for Unite the Union’s Lewes District for hackney drivers, says drivers are now facing month-long waiting lists for suitable cars in white to become available.

He said someone he knows waited 18 months.

The 46-year-old said this is resulting in many drivers, including himself, deciding to work in the private hire industry instead which has raised fears about passenger safety.

Lewes District Council said there are "numerous reasons" why people are leaving the trade and that there are shortages nationwide.

Mr Kiernan, who has been a driver for 22 years, said taxi drivers are also experiencing abuse from frustrated passengers who are struggling to get a taxi when they need one.

“We can’t get the desired vehicles now in white,” he said.

“Myself included.

“I tried to find a white vehicle because I needed a minibus and I couldn’t find one.

“There’s plenty of other drivers who have done the same as me.

“So now we’ve had to become private hire just to stay doing the job.

“Now there’s less than 100 hackney carriages left in the district.

“When I first started there was nearly 400.

“People cannot get a taxi; operators are getting abuse because they can’t provide a taxi when they ring up for one.

“It’s a mess.

“It’s shocking.”

Mr Kiernan wants the council to reconsider its position and revert to the previous policy allowing cars to be any colour.

But a spokesman from Lewes District Council said its policy is not responsible for the fall in driver numbers.

“There are numerous reasons why people are leaving the taxi trade, but the white car rule has had a negligible impact on the number of drivers,” he said.

“We recently carried out a wide-ranging consultation with the taxi trade and 112 drivers and operators responded. Only four said the white taxi rule should change.

“Since the pandemic, most parts of the UK have seen a reduction in the number of taxi drivers.

“Demand for taxis during the pandemic was obviously low and it was inevitable that drivers looked for alternative employment opportunities.

“Bodies representing the taxi trade have also confirmed this trend.”