Cabbies threaten more protests against new licensing rules which include vehicle age limit reduction
Hackney carriage and private hire drivers in Newcastle have threatened to bring the city centre to a standstill once again in opposition to new regulations due to be approved by Newcastle Borough council officials on 11 June.
The new policy includes new rules for vehicle testing, a reduction in the age-limit for vehicles and a new English language test.
Hackney carriage and private hire drivers brought chaos to Newcastle town centre when they refused to pick up passengers during a Friday night strike in March and have warned they will do it again if the new rules are approved.
PHV drivers have also said that if the new stricter regulations are put in place they could be forced to obtain licenses from other surrounding authorities.
Further strikes have been warned by drivers and managers if the council does not listen to their concerns. Drivers and bosses have said that they have completely lost trust in the council and say the current BTEC examinations at Stoke-on-Trent College are sufficient.
Concerns were raised with regards to the council taking over the new tests, with drivers and firm owners saying there could be a bias involved if they are done "in-house".
One family run firm who have always operated in the area are worried that the new regulations will push them to move to another licensing authority to start again even though they don't really want to leave.
As reported by the Stoke-on-Trent Live, taxi drivers claim to have the following issues with Newcastle Borough Council's new taxi licensing policy for 2019/20: - Operators claim they will have to keep logbooks of service history for self-employed drivers - at a great cost of time and effort to their businesses;
- Vehicles can't be licensed past four years old for their first time and beyond seven years in total;
- Switching to electric vehicles is too expensive and they'll lose money when charging;
- A new type of testing system won't be as efficient as the Stoke-on-Trent College BTEC qualification they already have;
- They don't like the penalty points scheme;
- They say they'll have to wait between five and eight weeks for an appointment to renew their licences;
- It'll cost customers more;
- It will reduce service and safety standards;
- It will send drivers out of the borough for licences.
Stephen Sweeney, cabinet member for finance at the borough council, said: “The council is committed to communicating with all stakeholders involved in developing the new taxi licensing policy and has gone to great lengths to keep an ongoing and open dialogue with representatives from the Hackney carriage and private hire trade.
“The council has met with taxi drivers on numerous occasions, extended the consultation twice at their request and officers have amended some of the proposals.
"Councillors agreed to a further meeting before they make a decision on 11 June and are allowing two representatives from the trade to address councillors and put forward their points at the meeting. “In these circumstances, and as the draft policy is still being finalised, the council feels that threats of further strike action are premature and unfortunate.”
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Image: Author; David