Updated: Sep 6, 2020
The Shadow Transport Minister has questioned what assessment has been made to ensure the adequacy of the financial support made available to taxi drivers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The question, directed at the Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps, comes as cabbies across the UK continue to struggle paying business expenses and earn enough to cover living costs.
The majority of taxi drivers are classed as self-employed workers. Like all workers in this category, those cabbies that are eligible received help via the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
The SEISS however only covers an individual's profits and does not take into account the high running costs of a taxi. There has been calls from the taxi industry for a more tailored scheme to help cover the costs of running a taxi fleet and to maintain coverage across the UK.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, London’s licensed taxi drivers and fleet owners have invested nearly £200million into 3,500 zero-emission vehicles in an attempt to clean up the capital’s poor air quality as requested by the Mayor of London.
Each electric vehicle can cost upwards of £50,000 and these costs, plus more including finance, insurance, meter rentals, maintenance and licensing fees, are not covered by the SEISS package.
Tan Dhesi, Shadow Transport Minister, queried “what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the financial support available to taxi drivers who have been affected financially by the COVID-19 outbreak”.
Rachel Maclean, DfT Parliamentary Under-Secretary, responded saying: “The Government has acted to support those that are self-employed and have been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak across all sectors of the economy. The overwhelming majority of taxi and private hire vehicle drivers are self-employed and can therefore apply for a grant through the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
“Over the two rounds of the scheme a total of up to £14,250 has been made available to those eligible.
“Taxi and PHV drivers may also be eligible for Universal Credit, from 6 April the standard allowance available under the Universal Credit system was increased from £317.82 to £409.89 a month.
“In addition, the Universal Credit calculation was amended, no longer using an assumed level of earnings (Minimum Income Floor) but actual earnings.”
Next week the Mayor of London and transport officials will be asked what more they can do to support taxi drivers who have invested heavily to make the capital’s air cleaner.
In a City Hall meeting set to take place next week, members of the London Assembly will put forward written questions to be answered by 15 September. One of those questions asks what more can be done to support taxi drivers who were urged to invest in electric taxis prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and are now struggling to bear the costs.