‘This is our livelihood’ – unhappy taxi drivers block road outside council’s HQ

TAXI drivers in Rossendale blockaded council offices in response to controversial proposed changes.

Rossendale cabbies were unhappy with new rules being implemented and united to block the road leading to the offices of Rossendale Council at Futures Park from 7.30am yesterday.

Members of the Rossendale Taxi Association have said they are outraged at new rules drivers are being asked to adhere to and have said they have not been consulted.

Glenn Bulcock, 59, group member and former chairman, said: “This is only the start, we’ll block the whole of Rossendale if we’re forced to.

“This is our livelihood and our living.”

The newest council plans include implementing one-colour taxis, an age restriction of 18 months for new taxis, and causing all drivers to take a two and a half hour knowledge test costing £70.

Monday’s protest is the most recent in a dispute after Rossendale Council was accused of approving too many hackney carriage licences last October.

A total of 1,864 drivers had been issued with taxi licences and just two for private hire for a population of 65,000.

This led to drivers acting as mini cabs across the North West and into Yorkshire.

The latest protest was resolved around midday after council officers met with representatives of the areas taxi trade to hear their concerns.

It was agreed that a workshop meeting with Rossendale taxi representatives will be set up to discuss planned changes but the result was not welcomed.

Mr Bulcock said: “I’m not really happy with the outcome, the workshop will just give us another meeting where they will try and force their ideas on us.

“But the support from taxi drivers was absolutely fantastic, we had the whole of Rossendale behind us. More than 300 people turned up.

“We felt we had to demonstrate. They can’t continue to make changes without our input.”

The council was only made aware of the industrial action by the press and said it worked quickly to tackle the issue.

Chairman of the licensing committee Cllr Steve Hughes welcomed the result and was glad when the roads were cleared.

He said: “It is pleasing that this has been resolved quickly their voices will be heard.”

Rossendale Council urged that any future disputes are resolved formally as they look to avoid the disruption of industrial action.

Legal service manager Clair Birtwistle said: “The best way to engage with this process would be to provide a formal response. Those wishing to formally engage with the Council, as the Licensing Authority, can do so online.”

source: http://www.lancashiretelegraph.co.uk/