Hundreds of private hire workers attended a crunch meeting last night called over grievances about Sandwell Council’s taxi policies.
Private hire representatives feel workers are charged too much for licences and are made to undergo more stringent tests than in other areas
They have also complained that it costs more in the borough to get a licence than other places, such as Wolverhampton, while there is only one specialist garage for cars to be checked, which they say means they are often waiting weeks for their cars to be confirmed as road ready.
Mohammad Namiz, who represents private hire drivers in Sandwell, said he believed policy differences between boroughs mean drivers will go elsewhere to get their licence but will still end up driving in Sandwell.
He also said tests have been made harder and that people who are not fluent in English may be stopped from becoming a driver. A three-year licence application in Sandwell costs £352 and when medical costs are added, some drivers feel the amount is too high.
Mr Namiz said: “If you want to become a taxi driver in Sandwell you could be waiting up to a year. In other boroughs you can get a licence within weeks. Before there were 15 questions but they have put it up to 50 and you have to get 45 right. They are not reducing prices, they are not giving us more garages – they are putting the prices up.”
Angry drivers met in Smethwick last night to discuss their next step and have insisted the situation must change. Mr Namiz, from Oldbury, believes council bosses have not listened to their arguments and suggested drivers could strike if changes are not made.
He said: “What’s stopping us going to Wolverhampton and paying less to get a plate? There is no communication with the drivers. They are all fed up. I am not recommending anything at the moment but they are not going to be treated like this.”
Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for health and protection at Sandwell Council, said: “The council is working to streamline our processes and improve efficiency by allowing applicants to apply online. This will speed up the process and hopefully reduce costs. Its hoped that this service will go live early in 2018.
“We are able to process a vehicle application and issue a licence within two hours if the vehicle passes the test and all other requirements are met. No other authority locally can provide this service. We have one garage at the council’s transport depot that does all the vehicle testing for the authority, but drivers are able to get their vehicle repaired elsewhere.”