IT’S ALL ABOUT THE COSTS: What targeted taxi industry Government support might look like

I know almost every worker and industry will be saying the same thing, but... the taxi industry is going to require some targeted help over the next six months.

Since the announcement of further restrictions placed on individuals and businesses, which could last for six-months, work-levels in the taxi trade have again slumped. It comes as a bitter blow after signs of slow growth and positivity had meant the industry could focus on rebuilding and at least beginning to hope of breaking even.

However, workers who normally occupy offices and travel to see colleagues and customers for meetings and to socialise, have once more been forced behind their kitchen tables relying on Zoom and Ocado.

Restaurants and bars closing at 10pm means a ghost town night-time economy, pushing taxi drivers to work during the day to find what scraps remain.

Visitors to your town or city during the week are now no more, as kids are back to school and limited international travel remains.

As a result, it comes as no surprise that the 20% Self Employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) ‘top-up’ barely scratches the surface. In fact for many, including myself, it doesn’t even cover the fixed costs associated with running a taxi.

There are many drivers out there who have recently invested heavily and as instructed by the Government and Local Authorities. Whether it be the latest Zero-Emission Capable (ZEC) vehicle, new wheelchair accessible vehicles, or just a change of policy effecting the colour of the vehicles, there is one thing drivers and fleets have in common... they have invested in the industry to benefit those in the local community they operate in.

The 20% SEISS is not a targeted grant. It simply does not take into account the running costs of a business. A taxi driver spending upwards of £60,000 on a new vehicle along with hire and reward insurance and fuel costs, compares very differently to a self-employed mobile hairdresser with very little expenditure who will be receiving the same grant for example.

Importantly, keeping public wheelchair accessible vehicle coverage in all communities will require targeted help. Drivers want to work, but for many the cost of trying to work is too high. If the risks continue to outweigh the benefits, the number of wheelchair accessible vehicles is only likely to fall.

So, what could targeted help look like?

The Government are keen to help viable future businesses survive and support those who want to work. Each taxi driver has different costs dependant on where they work in the UK and also where they are in their own business plans. Some cabbies are freehold owners of their taxis, whilst some have just entered into new vehicle finance agreements.

If the Government were to meet the costs of a driver, capped at an average based on previous tax returns, it would allow the industry to move again.

Image credit: Ross Campbell

Drivers would spend again with rental garages, fuel would be purchased and drivers would make a modest profit. All of this is taxable and therefore the micro-economy of the taxi industry would return along with income to the Treasury.

For those drivers that do not want to work in the industry or have found other employment there would be no grants as there would be no receipted expenditure.

By capping the limit to previous tax return levels there will also be little room for fraud as rental garages would have to remain competitive with prices.

Failing this there are other simple ways to support the industry which were set in place at the beginning of the pandemic, but now sadly removed. These included payment holidays on large finance payments like mortgages and vehicle repayments.

Drivers do not just want a hand-out to sit and do nothing. They want to work and serve their communities. Targeted support would allow this.

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