Newcastle-Under-Lyme cabbies refuse to pick up from town centre in protest at borough council plans

Newcastle-Under-Lyme cabbies have refused to pick up and drop off in the town centre last Friday, between 11.30pm and 3.30am, in protest at new licensing plans drawn up by the borough council.

Cabbies have been angered by the fact that although Newcastle Borough Council have been consulting on reformations to its taxi licensing policy for two years, drivers themselves claim that they were only invited to take part in the process at a very late stage. 

A number of issues were highlighted by drivers in the 91-page policy document, and drivers have said Friday's action was a "warning" as to what disruption could be caused.

Concerns have been raised by cabbies in respect of the prohibitive costs of some of the new proposals as well as some of the seemingly punitive and draconian measures being put forward by the council, including a points system for drivers, which could see some drivers facing having their licenses revoked for infringements such as weating shorts, which carries a three point penalty.

Other measures such as being forced to purchase newer vehicles and operators having to keep logbooks of service history for self-employed drivers have all raised concerns, and there are claims that this could lead to price rises.

The proposal also includes asking drivers to switch to electric cars, however cabbies say that a move to electric is too expensive and revenue will be lost as vehicles are charging. 

It was reported by Stoke on Trent Live that the cabbies took action so as to get the councils attention after its failure to consult industry members at an earlier stage.

Cab drivers stopped picking up from the centre of Newcastle-Under-Lyme at 11.30pm on Friday night and didn't resume until 3.30am the following morning, they were supported by drivers from Stoke-on-Trent who also refused to pick up from the town centre.

Newcastle Hackney Carriage Association vice-chairman Bashir Choudry slammed the council, stating that drivers will be paying for the councils mismanagement, and claiming that whatever we have been trying to say, the council have not listened. He also described the new policy as ridiculous. It is believed that Newcastle Borough Council have gleaned over 400 replies from cabbies about its new policy. 

Councillor Stephen Sweeney, cabinet member for finance and efficiency claimed that the draft taxi licensing policy consultation was originally intended to last for 12 weeks but was extended on two occasions, taking it to 23 weeks, as well as meeting with industry representatives on three occasions. 

No decision has been taken as yet, and the consultation comments will be considered by the Public Protection Committee in April.

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