Rochdale minicab firm admits providing white drivers on request

A newspaper board outside a Rochdale shop. It emerged in 2012 that taxi drivers in the borough were involved in grooming young girls.

Car 2000 minicab company, which serves area where Asian grooming gangs have operated, says it is catering to demand

Customers ordering minicabs in the town at the centre of Britain’s biggest grooming scandal are being offered white drivers on request.

Residents in Heywood in the Greater Manchester borough of Rochdale have been offered the service after two local drivers of Pakistani origin were jailed for their part in the rape and trafficking of young white girls.

Stephen Campbell, the manager of Car 2000, which took over Eagle Taxis, a firm that employed drivers at the heart of the scandal, said that a consequence of the affair was that many white customers ask for white drivers – or “local” drivers, as they usually describe them.

“We have had quite a lot of customers requesting what they call a ‘local’ driver. A bit insane if you consider that most of the [Asian] lads were born in Rochdale.

“But its a business and we have got a duty to do what the customer asks us to. I don’t think we can discriminate against the customer in the same way. It is a business at the end of the day. We have a large bank loan to pay back,” he said.

If he could, Campbell said, he would persuade people to take any driver. “The Asian drivers are harder working, they do what they are asked and they don’t complain about it. They have a much better work ethic. If the public could actually see these [Asian] people close up and see what they are about, I don’t think they would be asking for white drivers.”

The disclosure comes as MPs in areas where Asian grooming gangs have operated have voiced concern about racial tensions, which have yet to subside some six years after the scandals first emerged.

Heywood was at the centre of the Rochdale scandal after a sex trafficking gang of men of mainly Pakistani origin were found to have preyed on at least 47 girls, all of whom were white. Two drivers from the now defunct local firm of Eagle Taxis were among nine Asian men jailed for their involvement.

Ukip ran a byelection campaign in Heywood and Middleton earlier this month focusing on the issues of child grooming and immigration and came within 617 votes of overturning a near 16,000 Labour majority.

Simon Danczuk, the MP for Rochdale, said: “This is extremely worrying and a stark reminder of the impact that grooming scandals have had on northern towns. This will not be a problem exclusive to our borough, I’m sure.

“It must act as a wake-up call to politicians who just pretend tensions like this don’t exist and bury their heads in the sand. There’s a lot of work to do to improve race relations and if we’re going to build stronger communities then we have to tackle these concerns head-on,” he said. ​

Campbell, 34, said his father James bought into the Heywood firm in 2011. A few months later, they realised that Car 2000 was at the centre of a major scandal as it emerged that drivers from Eagle Taxis were embroiled in grooming allegations. Mohammed Amin, 45, of Falinge, a driver for 14 years who was known as “Car Zero”, was convicted of sexual assault and received a five-year jail term.

Abdul Aziz, 41, a married father-of-three from Rochdale who was also a driver, was convicted of trafficking for sexual exploitation, received a nine-year sentence. They were two of nine men initially convicted in a complex trial.

“We were dead centre at the centre of that debacle. We bought the business knowing nothing,” said Campbell. “If you had lived through the 18 months that I went through you would understand how difficult it has been,” he said.

Around two thirds of drivers are of Asian origin, but more white drivers work during the day. Campbell said they receive up to 60 calls a week requesting a white driver.

Asked if he was concerned about the possible reaction from MPs and councils who may question the firm’s policy, Campbell said: “They [councils and MPs] can’t tell us what we can do.”

It emerged during the grooming trial in May 2012 that a number of men worked as taxi drivers and would ferry young and vulnerable girls around northern towns for sex with other Asian men.

The gang offered gifts to girls, won their trust and then forced them to have sex. Some victims were driven between Rochdale, Oldham, Bradford and elsewhere to have sex with men for money. Most of the victims came from Heywood, while most of the perpetrators came from Rochdale.

Since the trial, there have been serious racist incidents against drivers including threats with knives and assaults. Campbell said there has been a lack of a response from the police. “The Asian drivers do a great job, given the grief they have had from customers. They can’t say anything back. It is a terrible position to be in,” he said.

Abdul Afiz, 42, a driver at the firm from Rochdale, said that racist abuse happens often but only comes from a minority of customers. “You have to just get on with it,” he said.

But the “white drivers on request” policy does not run contrary to the conditions of the minicab firm’s license and can continue, a spokesman for the council said. Mark Widdup, the director of economy and environment at Rochdale borough council, said: “This is first the council has heard of this company’s policy. However, this appears to be a decision made by the company and there is currently nothing in the conditions of their license which state that they cannot operate such a policy, just as some firms choose to offer customers only female drivers.”


Taxi driver tries to pin speeding offence on former employee

A TAXI boss tried to pin a speeding offence on a former employee who owed him money, a court heard.

Jamie Lyons, 41, of Windsor Road, Weymouth, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice at Dorchester Crown Court, after claiming a former employee was the driver of a car that was caught speeding through a 30mph zone.

A Vauxhall Zafira registered to Lyons was caught speeding at 45mph on Blandford Road in Hamworthy at 2.11am on Friday, June 9, 2013.

Lyons told the court that it was one of the cars used by taxi drivers at his firm Streetcars and he believed his former employee, Gary Dunlop, had been driving the vehicle on the date in question. However, Mr Dunlop, who worked for Lyons’ for less than a week in May 2013, was working for Weymouth and Portland Borough Council on the date in question and told the court he only ever drove a Toyota Avensis while working at Streetcars.

The court heard Mr Dunlop began working for Lyons on May 15, 2013, and quit the job after just six days when he struggled to make enough money.

Mr Dunlop told the court that after leaving Streetcars he owed Lyons money, due to the cost of getting Mr Dunlop insured to drive the cars, and said his former boss had threatened to ‘break his legs’ and ‘burn his house down’ if he did not pay him money back.

Mr Dunlop said he had refused to pay any of the money back until he saw a copy of the invoice from insurers to prove the actual amount he owed.

The court heard a series of texts, some abusive, exchanged between the pair that were provided from the defendant’s mobile phone.

Mr Dunlop informed the police that he had been threatened by Lyons, which led to police tracking him down to question him about threatening behaviour.

Lyons told the court that he had checked records at the time of filling in the form and found the car in question was not on shift.

He then said he asked a colleague who thought Mr Dunlop had been driving the vehicle, which he thought to be true. Prosecuting, Nicholas Tucker, suggested Lyons didn’t check any records and only said Mr Dunlop had been driving the car as a ‘petty act of retribution’.

Defending, Timothy Shorter, argued that the only thing Lyons was guilty of was stupidity and carelessness.

It took jurors just over an hour to reach a guilty verdict.

Lyons will appear at Bournemouth Crown Court for sentencing on Friday, November 7.


Glenys Thornton on a dangerous clause in the Deregulation Bill

Glenys Thornton on a dangerous clause in the Deregulation Bill

It’s the opening day of Committee today on the Deregulation Bill and we have several examples already of what a mixed bag it is. No prioritisation, no criteria, no costing, the occasional impact assessment – most of which Ministers want to bury – and no consideration of the government’s long term or unforeseen consequences of its proposals.

Following hard on the heels of an attack in Clause 1 on workplace health and safety, Clause 2 removes the power of Employment Tribunals to issue wider recommendations to employers found to have unlawfully discriminated. Prior to the introduction of this power in the Equality Act 2010, a tribunal could only provide a remedy to successful claimants but not recommend an employer address the root causes of such discrimination. This meant that where the victim had left the workplace, the tribunal was powerless to ask the employer to change policies, practices or a culture that could likely lead to further discrimination.

The government wants to repeal this provision because of “employer fears about inappropriate or excessive recommendations”. Yet there is no credible evidence to support this argument. In 2012 there were 19 cases where tribunals issued wider recommendations according to a study published in Equality Opportunities Review (EOR). In 15 of those cases, the recommendation was for training on equality and diversity. For seven, respondents were asked to address equality issues generally or to review policies. These are proportionate and reasonable suggestions to address serious cases of discrimination. 

Later in the day, we move onto taxi licence deregulation and Clauses 10-12, which Ministers rushed into the Bill during the Commons stages – hoping it would go unnoticed.

How wrong they were. Peers across the House of Lords have been inundated with representations, ranging from women’s safety organisations such as the Suzy Lamplugh Trust, Police and Crime Commissioners, trade unions, students unions and local government leaders. All have highlighted the serious safety implications these measures would have, particularly in light of recent events in Milton Keynes and the Alexis Jay report into child sex exploitation in Rotherham.

Following concerted pressure and campaigns to get the clauses removed, the government u-turned recently and agreed to pull Clause 10, which would allow anyone without a private hire vehicle (PHV) licence to drive a minicab when it is ‘off duty’. The other two clauses however, remain in play.

Clause 11 ends mandatory licence checks, so that they only need be updated every three years. This could lead to drivers with criminal convictions or medical conditions that make them ineligible doing so for long periods of time without the licensing authority having the knowledge to revoke their license.

Clause 12 allows cross border subcontracting of bookings, which will lead to taxi bookings being passed to any operator around the UK. But it also allows a watering down of licencing. That could see PHV drivers opting to get licenced in the least-stringent area while at the same time leaving licensing authorities without the enforcement powers over those then operating outside of the area. It’s a hotch-potch clause in hotch-potch legislation, but clearly dangerous too. That is why Labour Peers will tonight lead a vote to get it deleted from the Bill.

Baroness Glenys Thornton is Shadow Equalities Minister in the House of Lords. She tweets @GlenysThornton



Apr 18

Licensed drivers suggest Cheshire West Council couldn’t organise drunken gathering in local hostelry

Cheshire taxi drivers plan to challenge licensing changes

ANGRY taxi drivers are planning a legal challenge against the council over controversial regulation and licensing changes.

Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) has approved the introduction of new policy which imposes an age limit on private hire taxis and black cabs.

Under the changes, new licences will now only be issued to vehicles aged under 42 months.

Licences will expire when private hire taxis reach 10 years old and black cabs reach 15 years old.

Taxi drivers – many of whom are already struggling to cope with rising fuel prices and falling trade – told the Leader last month they feared the changes could be the ‘final nail in the coffin’.

Mark Williams, joint director of Abbey Taxis, said operators and drivers were now looking to mount a legal challenge.

“The decision is unacceptable and we are pursuing a judicial review,” he said.

Mr Williams, whose firm has about 150 drivers in Chester, has previously suggested the changes could result in an increase in fares and a drop in the number of taxis on the road.

CWaC approved the new policy when licensing committee members met on Tuesday, April 16.

Representatives from the taxi trade, including drivers, owners and business operators packed the meeting.

Cllr Adrian Walmsley, chairman of the licensing committee, told the meeting: “We value taxi drivers and the last thing we want to do is to take taxis off the road.

“We have consulted widely amongst the trade, public and other stakeholders to help inform of our new policy and I believe we have created a policy that, at its core, benefits the travelling public, raises standards and improves our environment. “

Changes to the vehicle age limits will come into force on April 1, 2016.

Transitional arrangements are being put in place for the next three years for existing licence holders.

Other changes include the introduction of a new trade-wide code of conduct for trade and new driving assessments. All black cabs must also be wheelchair accessible on or before April 1, 2016.

CWaC said the new policy was designed to ‘harmonise’ the different regimes inherited when the council was formed in 2009, raise standards and improve the environment.


Chester taxi drivers angered as age cap limits introduced for vehicles

TAXI drivers in Chester have reacted furiously to new age limits on their vehicles imposed by Cheshire West and Chester Council.

Tuesday’s licensing committee meeting saw officers approve controversial proposals to limit the age taxis can be licensed.

The new age limits, which will be mandatory from April 1, 2016, are 15 years for Hackney carriages and wheelchair-accessible private hire vehicles, and 10 years for all other private hire vehicles.

Any taxi driver wishing to replace their car must get one under three-and-a-half years old for it to be granted a licence, while until April 2016, Hackney carriage drivers in Chester must buy a new cab.

Although the council has introduced the plans as part of an eco drive to ensure active vehicles are more environmentally friendly, the taxi industry has slammed the plans and is looking to appeal the decision.

Taxi driver Barry Fitzgerald, of the Hackney Association, is one of those who objected to the plans, with a 473-name petition delivered to the council against the age limit.

He said: “We never really had a consultation at the meeting, we just had three minutes each to speak and after that we couldn’t answer any points raised.

“We are now waiting on our unions to take the next step and see what happens.”

Chester Private Hire Association driver Bob Gilogly said: “Many drivers, in the middle of a recession, will simply be unable to do this, so it is estimated that up to 500 taxi drivers could face unemployment over the three-year transition period.

“The consequences of this decision for the general public are also obvious, as this will lead to increased fares or the inability to get taxis late at night, with the increased risk of trouble in the city centre.”

Mark Williams, director of Chester firm Abbey Taxis, said: “The decision made regarding the policy is unacceptable and we will be putting in a judicial review.”

CWaC licensing committee chairman Cllr Adrian Walmsley said: “We value taxi drivers indeed and the last thing we want to do is to take taxis off the road.

“We have consulted widely and I believe we have created a policy that, at its core, benefits the travelling public, raises standards and improves our environment.”


Apr 18

Wyre Forest Taxi drivers angered by rise in fees

TAXI drivers have voiced their concerns over a proposed hike in licensing fees.

Members of the Wyre Forest Taxi Drivers’ Association have penned a letter objecting to the planned five per cent rise in Hackney carriage and privatehire licence fees to Wyre Forest District Council, ahead of its environmental and licensing committee meeting next Monday.

The association said fees had already tripled over the last three years, adding there had been an increase of three per cent every year.

The letter asked: “Council rates have remained the same for the lastthree years but our fees still keepgoingup– why?”

The letter claimed the council had made savings fromwagesafter losingits chief licensing officer, reducing vehicle testing from three a year to two andbyonlyhaving licensing officers available two days a week.

In the agenda notes, the authority explained that the licensing functions were now centralised. A central licensing team deals with issues, with licensing officers available from Monday to Friday.

It added about 40 licensed Hackney carriage vehicles would no longer meet the current age criteria in June and might not continue to be licensed, leading to additional legal support costs and a “substantial” reduction to the taxi account income for 2013/2014.

Committee members are setto endorse the increase, which was set out inthe authority’s 2013-14 budget, andconsider the objectionletter atits meeting at WyreForest House, at 10.30am.


Apr 18

Swansea taxi driver Darryl Morris has conviction for dangerous driving quashed by appeal court judges

-0430-POLITICS-Justice_-006A CABBIE who was stripped of his licence after he was found guilty of running over a passenger he thought was trying to evade payment has had his conviction quashed.

Darryl Howard Morris, of Gendros Avenue East, Gendros, Swansea, claimed he was chasing the suspected fare dodger and the man fell over the bonnet of his car and broke his ankle.

​Swansea taxi driver Darryl Morris has conviction for dangerous driving quashed by appeal court judges

Last May the 40-year-old was banned from the roads for a year and ordered to do un- paid work after he was convicted of dangerous driving at Swansea Crown Court.

But, after a challenge by his lawyers, three senior judges have ruled that a legal error during his trial meant his conviction had to be overturned.

Mr Morris was accused of deliberately going after a group of drunken passengers he thought were trying to make off without paying for their journey, in March 2011.

He had picked the four men up outside Aspers casino in Swansea city centre and drove them to Eaton Road in Brynhyfryd, where three got out and began to leave.

Prosecutors had alleged that, not realising the fourth man was still in the car and planning to pay, Mr Morris drove on to a pavement after the others.

The taxi driver then crashed into one of the fleeing men, Martin Walters, causing him to fall underneath the car and break his ankle, it was claimed.

In his defence, Mr Morris said he believed that they were going to run off without paying and he drove on to the pavement slowly to try to block them off.

At his appeal — which was heard last month — his barrister Sarah Waters argued that the trial judge had misdirected the jury on how to consider their verdict.

Now three senior judges — Lord Justice Leveson, Mr Justice Mitting and Mr Justice Males — have found in the cabbie’s favour, and ruled that his conviction was unsafe.

Lord Justice Leveson said the result of the misdirection at the original trial was that the jury’s minds were not focused on considering what Mr Morris genuinely believed the passengers were doing.

He said: “In the circumstances, we accept the submission that there was an error of law in the direction of law that the jury were given. In the light of the failure to focus on the honest belief of the appellant, we conclude the conviction is unsafe.”

The three appeal judges refused to order a retrial.

Read more:

Apr 18

Cheltenham Borough Council bosses say “no” to rickshaws in the town – for now

THE “torturous” process of trying to bring licensed rickshaws to the streets of Cheltenham is over – for now.

Borough council bosses have said they will not be adopting a policy which would allow them to grant permission for the pedi-cabs to operate in the town.

However, they have vowed to look at the controversial issue again in the near future when a new Law Commission report and draft bill is published on the licensing of taxis at the tail end of 2013.

The unanimous decision, taken this evening at the Municipal Offices by the authority’s cabinet, comes more than a year after business owners first approached the council with plans to operate the vehicles in and around the Promenade.

Cabinet had decided in December 2012 to defer making a cast iron decision on licensing rickshaws on the grounds that the vehicles do not fit neatly into existing Hackney carriage legislation.

But dissatisfied councillors called in the decision for scrutiny, stating the decision to put off saying yes or no simply wasn’t good enough and “lacked clarity”.

As such, cabinet was asked to reconsider and now they have, saying no and opting to wait for new, “more fitting” legislation to come into law.

James Meyer, one of the people behind Rickshaw Revolution, the company which wanted to bring the pedi-cabs to the town, told the Echo the latest decision will force him to sell the three rickshaws he had bought.

“Clearly, I am extremely disappointed,” he said.

“I will be selling the rickshaws. No business can afford to take on stock and then wait 13 months only to be told that in another year I might be able to run my business.

“It doesn’t work that way.”

Meanwhile, Peter Jeffries (LD, Springbank), cabinet member for housing and safety, who has been dealing with the licensing issue, rejected accusations that the council had taken too long to make a decision either way.

He said: “It’s about legislation and democracy, not just taking a decision because we want to do something.

“I am confident that we have been open, honest and professional in our attempt to support this licensing.

“We could have easily just said no, but we didn’t. We took it on.”

Councillor Duncan Smith (C, Charlton Park), the chairman of the scrutiny committee which dealt with the call in said any qualms had been “more to do with the decision making process rather than the committee taking a view on whether rickshaws should be licensed”.

He added: “Cabinet has made a clear decision which is what we wanted them to do.”

Read more:

Apr 17

Victory for Neston Taxi Drivers Over New Council Policy

Cheshire West and Chester Council’s Licensing Committee have announed important decisions relating to vehicle standards and customer service by taxi firms.

The introduction of a new policy harmonises the different regimes inherited from the former district councils in 2009, into a consistent service for the whole of Cheshire West and Chester.

Changes relate to both Hackney Carriage and Private Hire vehicles operating across the Borough and include a range of measures such as a code of conduct for trade and a new driving standards assessment.

The Committee voted on the age of vehicles after studying safety, comfort, and the reduction of harmful emissions, balanced against the financial implications for the trade, and determined the age limits for a vehicle entering and leaving the trade.

By April 1 2016 all Hackney Carriage and Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles may be licensed from an age not exceeding 42 months and with an exit age not exceeding 15 years.

For Private Hire vehicles the entry age will not exceed 42 months old and those vehicles would have an exit age of 10 years.

There are transitional arrangements for the next three years for existing licence holders.

The decision represents a victory for Neston Private Hire, who had argued against the original proposal to only grant licenses to vehicles under 12 months old, as reported on AboutMyArea Neston. Drivers collected signatures on a petition that was one of several delivered to the Council by taxi firms in the Cheshire West area. Neston’s local firm had agreed with the proposal for the upper age limit of vehicles to be 10 years, but felt that the entry age restriction would threaten the viability of their business.

This week’s Licensing Committee meeting was packed with taxi representatives including drivers, owners and business operators.

In his introductory remarks, Chairman Councillor Adrian Walmsley told them: “We value taxi drivers indeed and the last thing we want to do is to take taxis off the road.

“We have consulted widely amongst the trade, public and other stakeholders to help inform our new policy and I believe we have created a policy that, at its core, benefits the travelling public, raises standards and improves our environment. ”

The Licensing Committee also reaffirmed their previous decision for all the Council’s Hackney vehicles to be wheelchair accessible and gave until April 1 2016 for compliance.

This only affected some Hackneys in the previous Vale Royal district and Councillor Eveleigh Moore Dutton told members: “This policy change was first decided in Vale Royal in 2005 and the lead in time has been unequalled in length. We have gone out of our way to be fair to the taxi-using public and the taxi drivers.”


Apr 16

Racist attacks and abuse in Burton & Northampton

Taxi driver too scared to work late shifts after teenager’s racist attack

A TAXI driver who was racially abused and attacked by a passenger was off work for almost three months and has been too terrified to work night shifts.

Rashad Mahmood was punched to the head, which knocked him to the ground, and then kicked by Robert Hackett.

This was after 19-year-old Hackett used racist words, told Mr Mahmood he should “go back to his own country” and that he should be washing cars, Derby Crown Court heard.

The teenager spat on the windows inside the taxi before grabbing Mr Mahmood around the chest as he drove.

The cab driver then stopped the vehicle and pressed the panic button, which alerted his control base.

Hackett then launched his vicious attack on Mr Mahmood and other passengers joined in. They ran off when a car drove past.

Mr Mahmood was taken to Burton’s Queen’s Hospital with bruising and a cut to his left eye, swelling to his head and chest pain.

Prosecutor Alex Wolfson said: “He was unable to sleep [after the attack].

“He was stressed and unwell because he was too scared to go to work and that’s where the money to support his family came from.

“He said he had feared for his life and thinks the [passing] car that interrupted the assault saved him.”

Mr Mahmood stayed off work for almost three months and, when he returned, felt unable to work weekends or night shifts, which “greatly reduced his earnings”.

Sending Hackett to a young offenders’ institution for 10 months, Judge John Gosling said that, although the injuries inflicted on Mr Mahmood, had not been grave, the psychological impact had been “very serious”.

Judge Gosling said: “He was terrified and left lying on the ground, and couldn’t go back to work for three months. He continues to feel vulnerable and insecure at work.

“You used a shod foot to deliver blows to his head and body. And you gave him a gratuitous kick as the others were running away as a car arrived.”

The court heard that Mr Mahmood was attacked on June 25 last year after he picked Hackett and other passengers up from the Greyhound Inn, in Ashby Road, Woodville.

Hackett, of Sage Drive, Woodville, admitted racially aggravated assault causing actual bodily harm on June 25.

Judge Gosling said that, after reading references for Hackett, he could tell that the defendant was “an exemplary character” and had expressed “real remorse”.

Read more:

Northampton cabbie recorded racist rant by passenger

A man who unleashed a tirade of racist, expletive-laden abuse at a taxi driver was forced to own up as the cabbie had recorded his rant.

William Portley disputed a £17 fare after being taken home from a night out drinking, at which point he started swearing and racially abusing the driver.

But the driver managed to record the incident on his mobile phone, which was then used as evidence in court.

Portley, aged 45, of Station Road, Cogenhoe, appeared at Northampton Crown Court on Monday. The court heard the incident, on August 6, started when the driver picked up Portley from the King David pub in Kingsthorpe.

Alexandra Bull, prosecuting, said: “He asked him to get out of the car for a fight. He said he was not getting his money. The driver asked for £10, at which point he started to abuse him again.”

Among a torrent of abuse, Portley shouted “I owe you nothing” and “your greed has got you nothing” at the driver.

Steven Evans, mitigating, said: “He has put his hands up and is a desperately ashamed man.”

Judge Rupert Mayo said: “You were obviously a mess last summer and your behaviour was out of character. But these are serious offences.”

Portley was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for a year, and 80 hours of unpaid work. He was ordered to pay costs of £250.


Apr 16

Driver fined for smoking in minicab

A private hire owner from Towcester has been fined £100 for smoking in her work vehicle.

On Friday, April 5, Valerie Dean of Deano’s Private Hire in Towcester pleaded guilty to smoking in her minicab.

Mrs Dean did not attend the hearing at Northampton Magistrates’ Court and entered a plea by letter.

In her absence she was fined £100 and ordered to pay £150 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

It was second time that Mrs Dean has been found guilty of the offence, the first offence occurring in 2008.

Councillor Dermot Bambridge, South Northants Council’s member for the environment, said all taxis must remain smoke free to comply with the law, but more importantly for the protection of public health.

He added: “Taxi and private hire vehicle drivers who insist on smoking in their vehicles run the risk of both fines and possible revocation of their private hire licence if found guilty.”

Speaking to the Advertiser after the case Mrs Dean said she did not want to spend the time fighting the case, but said she did not smoke in her cab.

She said it was a Sunday, she was not working and lit a cigarette as she exited her car as she visited a supermarket after having recently learnt about the death of a friend.

Since July 2007 it has been illegal to smoke in a vehicle that is used as a place of work or that is used to transport members of the public. For more information on smoking laws visit


Apr 16

Minicab protest brings Dudley to a halt

Traffic grinds to a halt in Priory Road outside Dudley Council House as taxis stage a go-slow protest over rulings on their car colours

A town centre was brought to a standstill as minicab drivers took to the streets to stage a go-slow protest. Dozens of cars filled the roads surrounding Dudley Council House in protest at its rulings on the colours of minicabs.

Current regulations state drivers can only use white-coloured cars in the borough. But members of Dudley Private Hire and Taxi Association want a second colour to be introduced.

During the demonstration before a full council meeting yesterday afternoon around 100 minicabs were driven along Ednam Road and to Priory Road where the drivers blasted their horns as they went past the council house.

Cars snaked around Priory Street and St James’s Road causing queues to build up in the town centre.

The protest lasted around 40 minutes and organiser Shaz Saleem, who runs two minicab bases in the borough and is chairman of the association said he was pleased with the turnout.

He said: “We have been forced into this because the council has refused to change its policy. We wanted to show the strength of feeling and a make a stand against these unfair rules. More than 1,000 people have signed a petition which shows how many feel the same way about this. We just want the council to introduce a second colour and make it fairer for drivers making a living.”

Organiser Shaz Saleem on the blocked road

He said he couldn’t rule out further demonstrations in the future and urged the council to reconsider their request.

The association lost a vote of Dudley Council’s taxi committee members last month to abolish the rules and are now threatening legal action.

Members argue white cars are more expensive because of the popularity of the colour. The council says having a single colour scheme allows customers to identify fully licensed minicabs.

Senior councillor Pete Lowe, who watched the protest, said: “I have sympathy for the plight of the drivers and I hope we can find a resolution which everyone is happy with.”


Apr 15

Stansted minicab driver receives hefty penalty after court no-show

6938705977_0d226702c4_oA driver with an airport parking company who was caught carrying passengers when he no longer had a licence to do so was found guilty in his absence after failing to appear at his latest court hearing.

Timothy Dodds, 50, was stopped by police while driving a private hire vehicle near Stansted Airport on November 19 last year.

But magistrates in Chelmsford heard that his licence to drive such vehicles had been revoked by Uttlesford District Council five months earlier.

Dodds, of Old Bury Lodge Lane, Stansted Mountfitchet, failed to attend the court hearing but was found guilty in his absence.

Councillor Doug Perry, chairman of the Licensing & Environmental Health Committee, said: “Timothy Dodds is not a fit and proper person to operate as a taxi or private hire driver.

“His failure to appear in court was a clear admission of his guilt and I strongly urge anyone who sees him carrying passengers in the vicinity of the airport to notify the police immediately.”

Dodds was fined £400 and ordered to pay a £15 victim surcharge as well as full prosecution costs of £490.92p.

JPs heard that Dodds’ private hire licence was revoked in June 2012 by the Council’s Licensing and Environmental Health Committee after hearing he had been stopped on four separate occasions earlier that year at checkpoints operated near the airport by Council enforcement officers and Essex Police.

In April 2012 he was cautioned by police for driving a vehicle which was not licensed for private hire use, failing to display private hire plates and failing to wear a private hire driver’s badge.

He was stopped on three further occasions in May 2012 near the airport for driving an unlicensed vehicle or not wearing a private hire driver’s badge.

The Committee were told that on one of the occasions he had been stopped he was seen to have been smoking in his vehicle, contrary to licensing laws.

Dodds had also failed to notify the Council of a change in his address or that he had recently acquired a conviction for possessing cannabis, again contrary to licensing laws.

He was issued with a fixed penalty notice for the smoking offence and invited to attend the Council’s offices in Saffron Walden to be interviewed under caution regarding the other offences.

But the Committee heard he failed to pay the fixed penalty and did not turn up for his scheduled interview. As a result his licence was revoked.

Members were told that it was the second time Dodds had lost his licence as it had been suspended for 28 days in May 2011.

The suspension resulted after he failed to notify the Council that he had been fined £50 and given five penalty points for failing to stop after an accident at an hotel near the airport.

Dodds was later fined £600 and ordered to pay £606 prosecution costs and a £15 victim surcharge by magistrates in Harlow after being charged in relation to the offences in April and May.


Apr 15

Dudley Tory leader slams taxi protest plan

Councillor Patrick Harley

THE leader of Dudley Conservative Party has slammed protest plans by borough taxi drivers to bring Dudley to a standstill tonight (Monday).

Members of the Dudley Private Hire and Taxi Association are preparing for a go-slow protest on the streets around the Council House in the town centre from around 5pm tonight – ahead of a meeting of the full council.

Taxi drivers vowed to organise the protest after Dudley Council refused to change rules which force borough registered private hire vehicles to be white.

Drivers argue white cars are more expensive to buy because the colour is currently popular and they say the council should allow an alternative colour, as neighbouring authorities do.

Shaz Saleem, chairman of Dudley Private Hire and Taxi Association, said the go-slow was about sending a message to councillors that taxi firms want a “common sense approach”.

But Dudley’s Tory party leader, councillor Patrick Harley, has slammed the protest plan and criticised Mr Saleem, who was last year vying to become a Labour councillor in Kingswinford.

Cllr Harley said: “As a wannabe politician he ought to behave more responsibly. Trying to bring Dudley to a standstill isn’t the responsible way to go about it.

“The Labour group should have a word in his ear.

“I’d encourage taxi firms that don’t go on strike to apply for the additional trade and keep it.”

Mr Saleem hit back, saying: “It’s a non-political matter.

“As chairman I don’t decide on everything that happens. My members voted for the protest. It’s going to happen with or without me. It’s got nothing to do with politics. It’s something the drivers felt passionate about.

“They just want to send a message out to the council.”


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