The Government remains ‘flat out unwilling to admit there is a problem’ says a London taxi industry leader as calls for targeted financial support for the taxi industry continue to fall on deaf ears.
According to the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) more should be done in England to support an industry heavily hit by the pandemic.
In recent months the devolved nations of Scotland and Northern Ireland have put in place support packages targeting the taxi industry.
Northern Ireland Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon opened up a £14million financial support scheme for taxi-drivers in Northern Ireland on 13 November. The bespoke scheme provided a one-off payment of £1,500 to eligible taxi drivers.
In Scotland the Scottish Government recently announced a new £19million fund to financially assist taxi drivers during the coronavirus pandemic. Taxi drivers can expect to apply for the grant schemes in January.
In Wales there has also been support for the cab industry. Taxi drivers in Wales were recently ‘overjoyed’ as access to vital grants worth up to £4,000 which arrived after a month of campaigning. According to sources from Unite Wales some taxi drivers have already received grants worth either £1,500 or £2,000 with a second payment due soon.
Steve McNamara, LTDA General Secretary, wrote in Taxi Magazine: “For some reason, the government remains flat out unwilling to admit there is a problem, either specifically for taxi drivers or for those self-employed people excluded from any kind of financial support.
“We have had MPs asking questions and writing to ministers on our behalf for weeks, trying to push for more support, but every time the Government just replies with a list of support schemes available, which is not helpful if you are one of the unlucky people who can’t access any of them, and even those who can are still struggling.
“Every other nation in the UK has now put dedicated support in place for their valued taxi drivers, with Wales launching one last week. Some individual local councils
and metro mayors in England have stepped up to provide much needed help, for example, last week Dacorum Borough Council introduced a support scheme.
“We will continue working with MPs to call the government out and push for support for England. We are also calling on the London Boroughs to see if they can provide some funding to help drivers, as they received most of the money to support businesses impacted by COVID, which other councils have used to help their drivers.”
London Assembly Member, Caroline Pidgeon, has also raised questions on the subject this week. She asked the London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, what steps he has taken or plans to take to assist over 21,000 London taxi drivers struggling during the pandemic.
Pidgeon asked via a written question to the Mayor of London: “I understand that in Liverpool taxi drivers have been given a grant by Liverpool City Council, which is effectively a refund of their licence fee. In other areas one off grants have been provided such as in Sheffield. I further understand that the devolved administrations in both Northern Ireland and Scotland have announced funds to help struggling taxi drivers.
“Please set out what steps you have taken or intend to take to supporting taxi drivers operating in London. Please also set out whether you have taken any steps to lobby the Government to offer any assistance to taxi drivers, many of whom are part of the 3 million excluded from Government pandemic support.”
There has been no response to the question so far.