Taxi union RMT have demanded national, regional and local support for the taxi trade as the exclusion of drivers from financial support packages leaves them facing bankruptcy.
With the second wave of COVID-19 now hitting the whole of Britain, and with localised lockdowns in place, the taxi trade is currently in crisis with hard working taxi drivers facing financial ruin due to the decimation of regular as well as passing trade.
For many drivers this is further compounded by the huge financial burdens associated with purchasing the new generation of electric vehicles as part of programmes across the country to introduce environmentally friendly green taxis.
Mick Cash, RMT General Secretary, said on 16 October: “The taxi trade is an essential part of Britain’s transport network and has played a key role in ensuring essential workers could get to their workplaces throughout the lockdown earlier this year as well as transporting sick and elderly citizens to essential medical appointments and getting people from the supermarket to their homes with food and other essential household items.
“It’s now time the Government’s across the four nations, as well as local councils, stepped in with financial assistance to ensure taxi drivers who are clearly key workers during this unprecedented pandemic avoid penury and suffering through no fault of their own.”
Since the call to action last week by the RMT, a bespoke package to provide financial assistance to the taxi, private bus and coach sectors in Northern Ireland will be brought forward.
The funding package will complement the existing Executive schemes which are being progressed to provide support to other sectors impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster, said: “COVID-19 has had an enormously damaging impact on all sectors of business and services. The operators of taxis, private buses and coaches have faced a significant reduction in demand for their services, yet their overheads have continued. It is absolutely right that they should be able to avail of financial assistance to sustain them through this difficult time and I hope they will take some comfort in the knowledge that support will be forthcoming.”
Liverpool City Council (LCC) have also handed a grant to thousands of taxi and private hire drivers struggling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city’s 3,886 licensed drivers who heavily rely on the hospitality, events and tourism sector have faced significantly lower work levels due to varying government lockdown measures.
A report approved by the LCC Cabinet on 23 October will see Hackney and private hire vehicle drivers given a grant equivalent to the £40 cost of their driver badge, plus a further £170 for their vehicle plate if they own the cab – a total of up to £210.
The cost, £663,400, will be covered through the £10million set aside by the council earlier this month to help alleviate the impact of COVID-19 trading restrictions in the visitor economy.