Taxi drivers in Wales are ‘overjoyed’ according to Unite Wales as access to vital grants worth up to £4,000 arrive after a month of campaigning during the coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement has been viewed as a rare bit of good news for the taxi industry after a tough year since coronavirus lockdown measures were first announced in March.
A month ago Unite Wales launched a campaign calling upon the Welsh government to provide a financial package of support for the Welsh taxi trade. The income of Welsh taxi drivers has plummeted throughout the COVID-19 crisis and their ability to access adequate financial support to replace their lost income has left many of them struggling to pay their mortgages and feed their families.
Welsh Government had provided welcome support to other sections of the Welsh transport system including bus and rail, so representatives called for similar action by the Welsh Government to cover taxi drivers.
Early political support for the campaign arrived from politicians, including Beth Winters MP, Jenny Rathbone MS and Mick Antoniw MS.
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.
The grants now available to taxi drivers form part of the Welsh Government Lockdown Discretionary Grant designed to help businesses survive the economic consequences of the national firebreak lockdown in Wales as a result of coronavirus.
The purpose of the grant is to support businesses with immediate cash flow issues to help them survive the economic consequences of the national firebreak lockdown in Wales.
There are two grants available worth £1,500 and £2,000 respectively.
To be eligible for the discretionary grant worth £1,500 in Cardiff cabbies must have:
Been forced to close (as defined by the regulations) as a result of the national firebreak lockdown
OR are able to demonstrate that the national firebreak lockdown will result in at least a 80% reduction in their turnover for that period.
Cabbies eligible for the grant worth £2,000 in the same licensing authority must show that they have been:
Forced to close (as defined by the regulations) as a result of the national firebreak lockdown
OR are able to demonstrate that the national firebreak lockdown will result in at least a 80% reduction in their turnover for that period
AND have been subject to local restrictions for 3 weeks or more up to the 23rd October and experienced at least a 50% reduction in their turnover for that period.
Drivers and other small businesses cannot apply for both grants. They are also not eligible for this grant if:
They are eligible for, or have received, the Lockdown Non-Domestic Rate Grant from your Local Authority
They have 50 or more employees
The business generates less than 50% of your income. The business must be their main source of income.
Yusef Jama, Unite Wales Taxi Branch Secretary, said: “It's been a long hard battle with the Welsh Government in our quest for more help for the taxi and private hire trade in Wales. But help is forthcoming, after lengthy discussions going back months and after being told countless times that there is no money to help drivers.
“The Welsh Government have agreed to allow licensed drivers access to the firebreak discretionary administered by the 22 local authorities in Wales.
“Drivers have already started to receive either the £1,500 or £2,000 grant, which is a huge relief after they have been forced to survive on the meagre work that is out there and the SEISS grant from Westminster, which quite frankly was never enough to help drivers pay their household bills and their business expenses.
“Welsh Drivers felt forgotten, after witnessing help given to other sectors of the transport industry, namely the busses and trains, we felt overlooked and neglected.
"We provide a vital service to the public, offering an A to B solution when alternative public transport services are unavailable or not viable. Yet we were constantly told that there was no money for us.”
As part of the campaign, taxi drivers from across the South Wales region congregated outside the Welsh Government Buildings in Cardiff on 24 November. The cabbies called upon the Welsh Government to introduce a range of measures to ensure financial help was provided to the struggling industry.
Jama added: “Unite Taxi Branch has spoken to many members who have been overjoyed at the news of this grant knowing they can now pay off debts they have accumulated through COVID 19 and pay other expenses.
“We don’t need reminding of the catastrophic affect the pandemic has had on the trade. With bookings down and the ranks not moving to a level that is not sustainable.
“Despite this good news, our trade still desperately needs financial help, continuous consideration needs to be done before deciding where support is needed most and the impact this will have on some of the lowest paid in our community if support is not forthcoming. As a Union we will continue to fight for our members and in the wider trades best interests.”
Unite Wales Regional Secretary, Peter Hughes, said: “It’s clear that continuing restrictions on the hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors have dealt a hammer blow to the taxi trade, and as long as these restrictions remain necessary the trade cannot recover. This step by the Welsh government is welcome, and can exceed the support package offered anywhere else in the UK.
“Ensuring that drivers can now access this much needed financial support at least gives them some relief over a difficult winter. This is a testament to the unity and solidarity shown by Unite members, making their voices heard and winning this acknowledgement for all in the trade.”
Regional Officer, Alan McCarthy, said: “Our members are understandably relieved to be now able to access grant funding from the Welsh government through the local authorities. While it is a welcome move, the income that’s been lost since March is astounding, and individual local authorities can still do more by waiving license and badge fees while we wait for the trading situation to improve.
“Limiting financial outgoings can be key alongside providing the maximum available grant. Unite will continue to support our members through this pandemic and beyond, and we look forward to discussions around stopping the damage Cross Bordering has done before, during and after COVID-19.”