DRIVERS’ STORIES: The impact of the pandemic on London’s taxi trade

Updated: Dec 27, 2020

According to taxi representatives, London’s cabbies need urgent financial support to ‘save taxi drivers from ruin’.

Over 3,500 iconic black cabs have been lost from London’s streets since the first lockdown ended in June due to the low-levels of work during the pandemic.

To halt the rapid decline, the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), a trade body which represents half of London’s more than 21,500 black cab drivers, has launched a campaign, Taxi Drivers Can’t Work From Home to highlight the devastating impact of the pandemic on the taxi trade and the need for more support for the industry from the Government.

A spokesperson from the LTDA said: “The Government must step in and urgently provide additional financial support to save taxi drivers from ruin, protect an important part of the transport system and ensure that the many jobs and wider economic benefits the taxi trade provides are not lost.

“Meanwhile, Transport for London and the London Boroughs must also take steps to restore confidence in the future of the trade and ensure that drivers can continue to ply for hire effectively across London, now and in the future.

“Use funding provided by government to support businesses forced to close to also support taxi drivers, following the example of other local authorities and regions.”

Whilst many of London’s taxi drivers can claim some support offered via the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), the grants do not take into account the high running costs associated with running a taxi.

John, a cab driver from Bexleyheath and member of the LTDA, said: “I have been a London taxi driver for 10 years. I love my job and work hard to support my family. As an industry, we are continuing to suffer with every new COVID-19 restriction the government implements, which has a knock-on effect on trade in London. Like many drivers, I have lost most of my income since this crisis began, but I have not been able to get any support from the government.

“To be able to claim through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), you must have shown profits for two out of the last three tax years. Unfortunately, I have purchased two cabs since 2016 and claimed capital allowances, as they were business assets. This means that on my tax self-assessment, I recorded a loss in 2016/17, when I bought a diesel taxi and also in 2018/19, when I bought a new zero emission capable (ZEC) taxi.

“I have therefore not been eligible for any support through the SEISS or any other kind of financial support like Universal Credit, despite having always worked hard and done the right thing. I feel like I am being penalised for investing in a clean, green vehicle. We are now struggling to pay the bills and keep our heads above water. I feel like me and my family have been abandoned by the government.”

Lisa, a London black cab driver from Enfield, said: “I have had my badge for nine years and over that time I have loved being a London taxi driver, it’s the best job I have ever had and I was proud to do it every day. The pandemic has had a devastating impact on my livelihood and completely changed my life.

“Trade collapsed during lockdown and my income fell to almost nothing. I was one of the lucky one able to get help from the government with the grant for the self-employed, which was a godsend. I wouldn’t have been able to survive without it.

“It took me five years to pass the knowledge but the time I invested was well worth it and I had thought I would carry on driving a cab until I retired

“However, with the costs of keeping the cab on the road and less money coming in, I was worried about the future and needed some security, so with a heavy heart I made the decision to give up the cab trade, at least for the time being. I was able to find a job working for a supermarket warehouse picking deliveries and I am lucky that I did so early on, as I am not sure this would be as easy to do given where we are now, with record levels of unemployment.

“I am hoping to be back as soon as possible, hopefully next year if things get back to normal but who knows what will happen.”

Barry, a London cabbie from Orpington, said: “I have had my badge for 15 years and am extremely proud to be a London taxi driver.

“I bought a new cab nearly three y