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Taxi drivers in Cambridge warn of court action should costly CCTV policy be pushed on to them



Taxi drivers in Cambridge have warned the council they may take court action should a costly CCTV taxi policy be pushed on to them during a nationwide cost of living crisis.


Taxi drivers licensed by Cambridge City Council (CCC) were recommended to approve the implementation of CCTV in licensed vehicles that could cost some drivers more than £500. If the policy is approved all new vehicle licences and existing licensed vehicles up for renewal from 1 April 2023 must be fitted with CCTV. This would see all licensed vehicles installed with CCTV by 31 March 2024.

In the Licensing Committee report it was revealed that South Cambridgeshire District Council had identified one provider who estimated installation costs based on the number of cameras needed. It was estimated that a single camera system would put drivers back between £75 to £100, and £100-£125 for a two-camera system. With panic buttons installed also, units would cost around £320 (excluding VAT) for a single camera unit with one panic button, to around £500 for a two-camera unit with two panic buttons. A further two Cambridgeshire based companies quoted £500 per unit.


The report noted that the number of cameras installed, and audio buttons will be dependent on size of vehicle, and whether 90 or 180 degree cameras are used. For example, if using a 180 degree angle camera, standard 5 seater saloon vehicles may only require 1 camera and 1 audio button, whereas a larger 8 seater vehicle may require up to 4 cameras and 2/3 audio buttons to meet the needs of both driver and passenger and capture the whole vehicle.

Ahmed Karaahmed, the chairman of Cambridge City Licensed Taxis, told Cambridgeshire Live that the city council was simply raising costs for cabbies already struggling due to the cost of living crisis. Karaahmed said: “The taxi trade is trying to recover from long lasting covid until now, with no profit. Next year will be another challenging year for our business, and winter will be tough. It is a tough time to be running a business, this winter people might be struggling to pay for food, their mortgages, energy bills, and I believe some taxi drivers will fall into this group. Cambridge City Council is creating an extra expense for the taxi trade.”


On Monday, Mr Karaahmed informed the Licensing Committee that if the CCTV policy was given the final green light, they would think about taking the matter to court.


Cambridge City Council officers have dealt with approximately 628 enforcement cases between January 2017 and July 2022, that were categorised as ‘driver complaints’ and ‘driver complaints – conduct’. These include reports of driving recklessly, not complying with council policy requirements, plying for hire, over charging and cherry-picking fares. Of these, 80 incidences were identified to fall into the category of sexual advances/assault, violent assault, child sexual exploitation, aggressive/threatening behaviour, and inappropriate conduct. These incidences are those when driver, passenger or both were within the vehicle, at time of incident. This equates to approximately 13% of cases dealt with by licensing officers.

Yvonne O’Donnell, CCC Environmental Health Manager, wrote in the council's report: “There is no doubt a vulnerability relating to Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHV. Members of the public enter into a Taxi/ PHV putting themselves under the control of a stranger in a confined space with no physical control over where they are taken. Furthermore, drivers also entrust members of the public into their vehicles, transporting them during unsocial hours, and sometimes visiting poorly lit routes.


“CCTV systems can act as an additional safeguard, providing protection, confidence and reassurance to the public when they are travelling in a taxi or PHV, as well as to drivers who can also be victims of violence, and abuse.


“CCTV systems can act as a deterrent to those with intentions of committing an offence to both drivers and passengers, but also where an offence has been committed images/audio recordings can capture evidence used in both a criminal and enforcement investigations.”


When discussing the implications of the policy earlier this week, the council’s Licensing Committee did approve the recommendation that all new and existing taxi licenses up for renewal will require the vehicle to be fitted with CCTV from 1 April 2023. However, it was agreed that councillors will seek potential subsidising options, sourced either from the council, or funded externally.

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