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Wokingham taxi drivers handing back their licences as COVID-19 continues to impact work levels

Some taxi drivers in Wokingham have been handing back their licences and have “given up” as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused demand to plummet, a council meeting heard on 6 October.

The news comes after the council’s Licensing and Appeals Committee discussed new taxi and private hire policies.

Members of the committee were told that some taxi drivers have taken up other jobs, such as doing deliveries for restaurants, and some private hire drivers are looking for fares in other parts of the country.

Councillor Lindsay Ferris said: “A number of people have handed their licence in and given up. “We need to help this part of the community. It has been extremely badly affected.

“They are still getting some business, but I reckon it’s 10 to 15 per cent of what they got before.”

The Chair of the committee said: “The hackney carriage taxi drivers are having a pretty rough time at the moment and like a lot of businesses are suffering from the massive loss of trade through the pandemic.

”They’ve also got the possibility of organisations like Uber who we rightly regard as not trading really fairly with the hackney carriage drivers, and more recently the ten o’clock curfew isn’t going to help either.

”I’m very sympathetic to their current plight so anything we can do to help which is reasonable, I think we should be considering.”

The committee agreed to suspend a rule which states that drivers cannot use a private hire vehicle which is over eight-years-old or a hackney carriage vehicle which is older than 15. The 12-month suspension aims to help struggling drivers who would have been required to buy a new vehicle if that rule remained in place. They have also suspended a rule which states that when a driver’s vehicle has reached its age limit, they can only keep it on the road if it passes the RAC’s advance inspection, which costs £190.

All vehicles must still pass hackney carriage and private hire vehicle tests and a standard MOT test.

Cllr Chris Bowring said: “It’s something of very little consequence to the public, but quite a bit of money for the drivers.

“In the present circumstances, regardless of how many drivers are in this position, it would be a good thing.”

Wokingham Borough Council has also reduced this year’s licensing fee for taxi drivers to £40.

However, Cllr Burgess said the drivers “feel continually let down” by the council’s licensing committee.

She said: “We’ve said they’ve been massively hit by the pandemic, but six months in what has this committee done to help them?

“I’m worried that whatever we agree now, for many of them it’s too little too late.

“There were many other issues raised before Covid, that drivers feel weren’t taken seriously, and now many are considering giving up or have already given up.

“As a committee, we should have been reviewing the measures we can take to support the trade – not just taxis – way before now and not being a barrier to them continuing in operation.”

She added: “This committee has failed, at least in part, to do its job properly this year and I do think people’s livelihoods have suffered as a result of that.”


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