The controversial new licence which furious Lincoln taxi drivers have to now secure comes into force today, Monday, March 7.
Angry drivers have claimed they will lose both time off work and wages if they take the £240 course ordered by the local authority.
And its announcement in February was followed by a walk-out of the college course that City of Lincoln Council demanded all local cabbies pay for, take and pass.
The cabbies were told they must complete a BTEC course in customer care, public protection, health and safety and routes and fares.
From March 7, it will become council policy that all drivers must have the BTEC Introduction to the Role of the Taxi and Private Hire Driver.
But drivers have said they already pay hundreds of pounds to take courses and fund fees.
And they insist the extra training is unnecessary.
On the first day of the course in February, up to six taxi drivers left branding it ‘a joke’ after they were asked to fill in a questionnaire.
It included simplistic comprehension questions, such as “which colour handbag do you like best?” next to a picture of a woman holding an assortment of bags.
The council defended its decision to make drivers take the course, set by Lincoln College, saying the requirement for training will enhance the service provided to the public and also the professional status of drivers.
The local authority said the offending questions were designed to test basic language skills in advance of the BTEC beginning.
One taxi driver who did not wish to be named said: “They set three forms out on the table. They didn’t say why we were there or what we had to do. I was expecting to go into a room and sit down with other people talking to us.”
Another taxi driver said he had refused to take the BTEC course in the first place and had even considered a career change because of the £240 cost to take the course.
“They should have introduced it to new taxi drivers wanting to come into the industry not established ones. We’ve jumped through so many hoops already.
“Some of our drivers have been driving for 38 years. It makes a mockery of what they’re trying to do.
“It should be there from the outset so you can make an informed decision about becoming a taxi driver. If you want to become a taxi driver that’s what you need.
“The worst case scenario is there’s going to be certain drivers out there who’ll go underground and there’ll be more bogus taxis on the rise. I’ve got morals but I think there’ll be people who’ll think, ‘I’m not paying that I’m going to do it illegally.'”
Mick Crow, managing director of Direct Cars in Lincoln, said the course would sort the good drivers from the bad, but did fear people may leave the profession because of the costs.
The 49-year-old said: “At the end of the day it will get the bad ones out because the bad ones won’t want to stick at it but the good ones will.
“We encourage people to come on board, we pay for all their badges. We’ve got some drivers costing more than £400, some cost over £700. The cost is going to deter people away from the job.”
A city council spokesman said: “The questions are not part of the BTEC. It’s entirely English comprehension. What it’s doing is [testing] whether anyone has additional needs such as not having English as their first language, or illiteracy or reading difficulties.
“It’s set by Lincoln College so when people come in they know what level everybody is operating at.”
Read more: http://www.lincolnshireecho.co.uk/