Council’s cab fare proposals will ‘impoverish drivers’

TAXI drivers have claimed a new fare chart proposed by Guildford Borough Council will threaten their livelihoods.

The authority agreed at a licensing meeting on Wednesday (January 4) that its proposed methodology to decide fare increases was accurate and based on strong calculations with supportive evidence.

But Mark Rostron, vice-chairman and secretary of Guildford Hackney Association (GHA), believes the borough’s calculations are not suitable and will result in a loss of money made by cabbies in the crucial first six miles of journeys.

He told the meeting: “The proposed new rates will discourage taxi use, hit vulnerable groups hard and further impoverish the drivers, and the council should reject it.”

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Rostron said a large percentage of his journeys were under six miles, and with extra costs for fuel surcharges and excess passengers taken away in the proposals, his earnings would reduce despite the council increasing the tariff for the first 16 miles.

The 50p extra for passengers will apply only for more than four, eliminating saloon cars, which Mr Rostron and many other cabbies own.

“The formula that they are using is without merit,” he added.

Mr Rostron also believes the borough’s 35% estimation for dead mileage, which is driving without a paying passenger, is too low and should be around 50-60%.

The council’s proposals came in response to taxi drivers in Guildford using a London-based fare increase of 2.7%, which the authority believed was unfair for residents and was not based on solid factual evidence.

There will now be a three-month consultation period for cabbies and the public to address the suggested methodology and bring forward any responses.

“We really do want the taxi drivers to know that we are on board and that we are listening to them,” said Councillor Matt Furniss, chairman of the licensing committee.

Cllr Stephen Mansbridge, lead member for stronger communities, said: “I could give no justification to the 2.7% London-based increase.”

Another problem Mr Rostron foresees is that the taxi fleet is too large, due to more drivers being licensed in order to reduce waiting times to zero at peak hours.

While this has worked, it has increased the number of cars during off-peak hours, meaning a lot of drivers who are self-employed finding jobs less available.

Members of the GHA may still stage a peaceful protest as the Olympic torch passes through Guildford next year if the council does not satisfy their demands, but Mr Rostron hopes it does not come to that.


Diane Abbott: taxi drivers refuse to pick up black passengers

Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and Shadow Health Minister Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott is facing fresh calls to resign after enraging London’s taxi   drivers with a claim that they routinely refuse to pick up passengers who  are black.

Miss Abbott came close to losing her job as a shadow health minister yesterday   and was forced to apologise over her comment on Twitter that “white people   love playing ‘divide and rule’”.

It seemed that her apology had deflected the worst of the criticism, which   included the deputy prime minister, Nick Clegg, condemning her as “stupid   and crass” and her own party authorities issuing a public rebuke.

However, taxi drivers were outraged to learn of further remarks from the   Labour MP in which she alleged that they drive past black people who attempt   to hail a cab.

Her comments came in response to a conversation about racism on the   microblogging site over the Stephen Lawrence murder trial earlier this week.

Miss Abbott, the MP for Hackney and Stoke Newington, tweeted: “Dubious of   black people claiming they’ve never experienced racism. Ever tried hailing a   taxi I always wonder?”

Steve McNamara, a spokesman for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said   Miss Abbott was either “racist” or “stupid” and should resign.

He said he had personally picked up Miss Abbott about 15 years ago and taken   her to “a rather trendy mews development” in Stoke Newington.

“We find it amazing that in this day and age someone in Diane Abbott’s   position can try to resurrect the stereotypes from the 1960s. At worst she   is racist and at best she is stupid in making comments like that. Either   way, she should go.”

Mr McNamara said the “knowledge” training schools in which taxi drivers learn   the routes around the capital are all equipped with prayer rooms, while a   “substantial proportion” of the LTDA’s 9,000 members are from black, Muslim,   and other ethnic minority backgrounds.

He said the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, was too “frightened” to sack Miss   Abbott. “She is a high profile black woman and he is obviously weak,” he   said. “It shouldn’t matter what colour you are, if you make these stupid and   crass comments you should go.”

Mr McNamara added: “She might have trouble getting a cab in the future and it   won’t be because she’s black, it will be because she is stupid. I certainly   won’t be stopping for her.”

Miss Abbott was unavailable for comment but it is understood that she was   reflecting on her own personal experiences and had not meant to offend taxi   drivers.

On Thursday, Miss Abbott, the first black female MP in the Commons, was   ordered to apologise over her remarks, also on Twitter, that white people   love playing “divide and rule”.

Initially she had claimed that her comment had been “maliciously” taken “out   of context”. But after a “difficult” phone call from Mr Miliband, which   interrupted her during a television interview, Labour headquarters issued a   statement in which Miss Abbott said she was sorry “for any offence caused”.   She has not posted any comments on Twitter since.


Taxi driver objects to 24/7 ruling

A TAXI driver was stunned to be told he must wear his name badge and display a sign on his car at all times, even on his days off.

Mohammed Iqbal Khan, 41, from Luton, was sent a letter informing him that investigations were being conducted after a licensing enforcement officer saw him driving his car on Tuesday, December 20 without a roof sign.

Mr Khan said it was his day off and he was driving home from the shops, so did not realise he was doing anything wrong.

Mr Khan, who lives with his wife in Whitby Road, said: “This is a very unfair matter. They are interfering in my private life. I was not working so why should I have to display a sign or wear my badge? I went to see the enforcement officer and he said I must wear my badge and have a roof sign on my car 24 hours a day, even if it’s my day off.”

If he is caught breaking these conditions three more times in the next six months, Mr Khan will lose his private hire vehicle licence.

Mr Khan said: “It feels like mental harassment. Why can’t I have a day off and not have to be a taxi driver every so often? But if I lose my job, that’s my bread and butter gone.”

A Luton Borough Council spokesman said that once a vehicle is licensed with a local authority, it remains a private hire or hackney carriage until the licence expires or is surrendered and can only be driven by a Luton licensed driver, even if it is for private use.

He said: “Drivers must fully comply with this legislation and other local authority conditions while the vehicle is being driven within its boundaries, even when being driven for private purposes. Therefore, the driver should wear and display the badge in a prominent position and have the correct livery (roof sign) fitted at all times.”


Taxi firm tells disabled man “you’re too fat to use our cabs”

Ronnie Dickson was told he was too heavy to get in the taxi

A CAB firm reduced a disabled man to tears by telling him he was too fat to get in their vehicle.

Ronnie Dickson weights 33 stone and suffers from a cellulitis, a skin condition that affects both his legs.

The painful medical condition means he is only able to walk with the help of two crutches and needs to use a disabled ramp to get into taxis.

His failing health means the 64-year-old has been travelling to hospital repeatedly over the last few months and is reliant on the service.

But Edinburgh-based City Cabs have refused to let him travel in one of their taxis, as he could break the vehicle’s ramp.
They said that they sympathised with Mr Dickson, but said the pensioner had broken a ramp on one of their cars just a week before.

Mr Dickson had called on the firm to take him to a doctor’s appointment but was shocked to be told he was too heavy to travel.

He said: “It hurt inside and I burst out crying. I got myself all uptight.”


His wife and carer, Hazel Dickson, 46, said: “My husband needs to use the ramp to get into a taxi on his crutches, but on Wednesday the driver said he couldn’t.

“Ronnie came back into the house and he was actually crying, he was very upset and I was angry.”

She added her husband had had similar problems with other taxi firms in the past.

City Cabs said they stood by their decision on the day. Company secretary Les McVay said: Company secretary of City Cabs, Les McVay, said: “Mr Dickson has been a customer with City Cabs for almost a year. In the past, Mr Dickson has been able to gain access to the taxi with the assistance from the driver.

“Unfortunately, Mr Dickson’s mobility recently has deteriorated and a combination of his weight and the inability to bend his knees has meant that he has recently started requesting the use of the wheelchair ramp to gain access to the taxi.

“The wheelchair ramp is designed to take a load in excess of 33 stone, but spread over the whole ramp. If Mr Dickson was in a wheelchair, then City Cabs could continue to provide a service. Mr Dickson damaged a ramp last week. The vehicle was off the road and the driver had to meet the repair bill at his own expense.”

He added: “City Cabs fully recognise and are fully committed to all of our disabled customers.

“Obviously this incident has caused Mr Dickson some distress and that is regrettable, but due to his failing health, the inability to bend his knees and his weight, he can no longer safely gain access to a normal taxi. He requires specialised help and a specialised vehicle.”

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Two women from Luton jailed for taxi driver attack

Two women from Luton who robbed a taxi driver to feed a crack cocaine binge have been jailed.

Charlene Owens, 34, was sentenced to 10 years and Charlyne Newell, 26, was  given seven years at Luton Crown Court.

Judge David Farrell QC said the robbery was “pre-planned and premeditated”  with the purpose of getting money for drugs.

Owens pulled a knife at a cash machine in a car park at 01:20 BST on 11 July 2011, stabbed the taxi driver and took £80, his wallet and mobile phone.

Taxi driver, Salim Choudhury, said at the trial in December last year he picked the two women up from Marsh Farm in Luton.

When he asked for his fare at the cash machine before taking them home, rear seat passenger Owens held a knife to his throat.

He tried to pull the knife away but his hand was cut and then he was stabbed in the face, shoulder and behind his ear.

Ran out of drugs

The women ran off after threatening to kill him if he complained.

Owens, of Olympic Close, pleaded not guilty to robbery and wounding but was convicted by the jury.

She was also on licence for a previous sentence for robbery, where her partner had used a knife.

Newell, of Devon Road, pleaded guilty to the robbery but denied knowing a knife was going to be used.

She also denied wounding but was convicted.

Judge Farrell said: “You had run out of drugs and decided to rob a taxi  driver. The sole purpose was to take his money to purchase more drugs.

“He was stabbed but fortunately lived to tell the tale.”


St Albans taxi drivers’ calls for fare extra rejected

A BID by taxi drivers in St Albans to increase their income by calling for fare extras to be introduced was thrown out by councillors last night.

Members of St Albans District Council’s licensing regulatory committee came together with the St Albans and Harpenden Taxi Association to consider the request.

The taxi drivers say some of the bigger cars, for example seven seaters, should be able to charge extra for carrying two or more persons as the vehicle is more expensive to run.

However councillors on the committee disagreed and rejected their calls. The drivers had also asked for the outside of the cars to carry adverts for local businesses but this was also refused.

Mudassar Yason, secretary of the drivers’ association, said although their calls for fare extras were rejected, the cabbies were glad some other issues were resolved. He added that an agreement was  reached about advertisements inside the cabs and to help reduce carbon emmisions no cars below a 1.7 diesel engine would now be granted a licence.

He said: “With the fare extras I guess the decision was fine. At the end of the day we could have gone for a fare increase but we understand that people say the last increase was extortinate and we  have lost a few customers because of this.

“We are glad the internal advertising was resolved but at the same time disappointed local businesses, who need all the support they can get at this time of recession, will not have the opportunity  to have adverts visible on the outside.”


Call for “taxi” drivers with excessive licence points to be banned

Councillor Lynda Clinton

A Birmingham City Councillor is urging the courts to dish out driving bans to  private hire drivers who stack up as many as 18 points and still keep their  licence.

The Birmingham  Post revealed last week that potentially deadly drivers are driving around  the Midlands after Magistrates allowed them to keep their licences.

Figures released by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) under the  Freedom of Information Act revealed that 295 motorists who live in the region  with 12 points or more still being allowed behind the wheel – in spite of  guidance to courts that only under “exceptional” circumstances should they be  allowed to continue.

Two of the drivers have amassed 20 points.

Now Councillor Lynda Clinton (Tyburn) is Labour’s Lead Member on Birmingham  City Council’s Licensing Committee, has spoken out about taxi drivers with  excessive points.

She said: “I would personally like to see the courts get tough with private  hire drivers who accumulate more than 12 points.

“They know when they break the law that their job is at stake. But they claim  hardship.

“Members of the public should not, in my opinion, be transported by drivers  who have excess points. I certainly would not want my grandchildren driven  around by somebody with excess points.

“It is unfair that this minority are allowed to continue driving.

“It is not unusual that I am called to interview private hire drivers (not so  often Hackney drivers) who, despite exceeding the maximum points, are allowed to  keep their driving licence on the grounds of hardship.

“The courts make these decisions and I, along with colleagues, then have a  decision to make as to whether they should keep their Birmingham City Council  licence.

“It is very difficult for us because the courts have allowed them to continue  driving.

“If we make a decision to suspend or revoke the licence they can appeal,  which may be successful and will cost the taxpayer even more money.”

“The number of points that some of these drivers have accumulated are really  quite high. We are talking about 14, 16 or even 18 points.

“The laws of the land say they are a danger, so they should be off the  road.”

But a spokesman for the Birmingham Private Hire Association said the courts  do and should continue to allow some drivers the chance to continue working.

He said: “It is right that a driver who is caught driving without insurance  has his DVLA and council licence taken away.

“But if it they are caught a number of times for not wearing seat belts or  speeding then I think they should be allowed to continue driving.

“I can tell you that the majority of private hire drivers who are driving now  with more than 12 points have had offences totted up and that is why they are  allowed to continue driving.

“They drive more than 30,000 miles per year and are not going to have stuck  to the 30mph limit the whole time.

“The council targets these private hire drivers to take away their licences,  but when it does go to appeal the judges rule in favour of the drivers because  they have these bills to pay.

“The judges allow them to continue to drive because they still have to feed  their kids and pay their mortgages.”

A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said: “Just because a court allows  someone to keep a licence for the sake of their livelihood, it does not  necessarily follow that licensing will allow them to keep their licence.

“For example the committee’s policy is that any driver found guilty of plying  for hire will automatically face licence suspension action, regardless of  whether they are at 12 points or whether a court has said they can keep their  DVLA licence, or not.

“Generally where a driver has accumulated more than nine points over a period  of time, or committed a single offence attracting a significant number of points  (6+) officers can recommend members review the licence.

“The committee also looks at far more issues than just traffic offence  history in considering what action to take, for example a driver may have a  history of licence offences which don’t necessarily attract points (and  therefore applied at court) but add to weight of evidence supporting decision to  revoke or suspend the licence.”

Road safety charity Brake spokesman Richard Coteau said: “Drivers who  repeatedly flout traffic laws have shown complete disregard for the lives of  other road users.

“They have had ample opportunity to desist breaking the law before reaching  12 points and facing disqualification.

“It’s time for the Government to get tough with these selfish, irresponsible  and potentially deadly drivers.”


EPPING FOREST: Cabbies’ fight for standard fares moves a step closer

CAB drivers are celebrating a milestone in their campaign for standard fares and taxi ranks to be introduced.

The district council is asking people for their views on whether meters set by the council should be installed in Hackney carriages – any cab that can be hailed in the street.

Sanu Azid, 33, the chairman of the Epping Forest Taxi Association, said the consultation was a big step forward.

“We have been speaking to the council for three years about this,” he said. “There has been demand for it before, but no-one constantly creating the pressure.

“As it stands, a driver can charge £100 for a local journey, if he can get away with it, and the passenger can’t legally do anything.

“It gives a bad name to a taxi driver and everybody gets grief.”

The council also wants to know how much support there is for official taxi ranks and suggestions for which roads they should be on.

It has already raised the possibility of setting up a rank outside a parade of shops in Loughton High Road, near the turning for Trap’s Hill, although this raised objections from traders and the  council has yet to make a decision.

Mr Azid said his group supported taxi ranks in general, although he would rather see one behind Morrisons that on the High Road.

“Once a rank is established, the public knows there’s a licensed taxi waiting there,” he added.

“In the whole of Epping Forest, there’s one official taxi rank, which holds three cars, in Epping High Street.”

Ron Taylor, 62, a self-employed driver who works around Buckhurst Hill and Loughton, said: “I think it’s the right thing to have meters.

“It’s fair for everybody – customers and the council as well, because if people rip off customers, they’re going to complain to the council.

“Putting bays in can only be a good thing. We’ve been pushing for ages for this.”

The consultation has been sent out to town and parish councils and its questionnaire on the topic can be found by going to and clicking on ‘licensing’.


Christmas taxi trade in Colchester ‘has never been so terrible’

Tony Saunders

AN experienced taxi driver said the Christmas and new year period had been the quietest in 25 years.

Tony Saunders, chairman of the Colchester Hackney Carriage Association, stayed at home over the festive period to save cash.

He said drivers were giving up because of the declining trade.

Mr Saunders said: “I am starting my 26th year in taxis and it was the worst new year and Christmas ever.

“The majority of drivers would agree it was quieter than most Saturday evenings.

“Firms would have Christmas parties 25 years ago, but there are not a lot of big firms here any more and there aren’t these Christmas parties – a lot of smaller departments go out on their own.”

Mr Saunders said another reason for declining taxi trade was that people were not prepared to pay prices charged by some bars and would rather buy lower priced alcohol from supermarkets.

He said with both Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve falling on Saturday nights, drivers had expected to be busy but were left disappointed.

Mr Saunders said: “The morale has been very low throughout the year because it has been getting slowly worse and there has been a decline in trade.

“People are still finding it tough. The recession is still biting and people are still careful with their money and some people would see a taxi as a luxury.

“It is certainly worrying and some drivers are giving up.

“They are biting the bullet and have got to find something else – you can’t blame them.”


Attacked taxi driver saved by have-a-go hero

A taxi driver was punched to the floor and kicked by two men but was saved by a have-a-go hero.

The attack happened in Stilton on New Year’s Eve after the driver had taken a fare to The Talbot pub in North Street, shortly before midnight on Saturday, December 31.

But the passengers only handed over £5 of the £15 asked for and when the driver threatened to call the police, two of the men punched him to the floor and kicked him.

Police have appealed to revellers who witnessed the incident to come forward.

A brave onlooker intervened and the victim managed to get back into his car and drive away. He suffered minor injuries.

One of the offenders is described as white, about 20, cleanly shaven with dark hair. He was wearing a black, sleeveless top and blue jeans.

Pc Suzanne Pickard, investigating, said: “This was a nasty attack on a man who was simply doing his job.

“I would appeal to anyone who was celebrating the New Year at the pub and may have seen what happened. In particular I am keen to speak to the member of the public who came to the aid of the driver when he was being assaulted.”

Anyone with any information should call Pc Pickard on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111.