London taxi driver representatives are ‘not hopeful’ of targeted financial help from the Chancellor given the strained relationship between the Government and the Mayor of London.
According to Mayor Sadiq Khan he has highlighted the ‘plight’ of the taxi and private hire industry to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, which included asking for exemptions to be made on electric taxi purchases when calculating Government SEISS grants.
The call comes following the devastating financial effect across the UK on the taxi industry due to the pandemic. Enforced Government lockdowns and restrictions since March 2020 has seen work levels plummet to unsustainable levels.
Responding to a question from London Assembly member Caroline Pidgeon, the Mayor of London, said: “I am aware of the significant effects the coronavirus pandemic has had on taxi and private hire drivers.
“I have recently written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to draw his attention to the plight of taxi and private hire drivers in London.
“I have highlighted the vital roles of the taxi and private hire trades in London and asked the Chancellor to consider how to allow for more flexibility in the way that the Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) grants are calculated, to ensure that self-employed and gig economy workers are able to accurately reflect the work that they have done and receive the support they need.
“I have also urged consideration of how to exempt zero-emissions capable (ZEC) taxi purchases from capital allowances so that drivers claiming income support due to COVID are able to access adequate support for their work from the past three years.”
Despite the plea, officials at the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) remain less certain the calls will have any result given the current relationship between Sadiq Khan and the Government.
Steve McNamara, LTDA General Secretary, said in TAXI Magazine: “I am also due to meet with London Councils, the body which represents all the London Boroughs to discuss the need for a London-wide approach to providing financial assistance to taxi drivers, which would make things easier!
“We are also told the Mayor has written to the Chancellor asking for funding to support Transport for London (TfL) licensed drivers, but I’m not hopeful, given the state of that relationship!"
There is however some hope that TfL may ask the Government to incorporate a fund aimed at taxi drivers in the next bailout package requested.
McNamara added: “In a trade meeting with the new TfL Commissioner before Christmas, I said TfL should be asking for money to help the taxi trade, as part of the next round of bailout negotiations with the Government. It seemed they hadn’t even thought of this, which shows how far down the pecking order we are!
“The new Commissioner himself did seem to understand the value of the taxi trade, so let’s hope he will do more to help, and while he is at it, stop closing roads to taxis and making drivers’ lives more difficult!”