STRIKING taxi drivers are threatening legal action against Coventry City Council after councillors last night refused to give in to their demands.
City cab leaders say they are planning to take the council to the High Court as the deadlock continues and the strike today entered its eighth day.
They had been hoping for the first talks with the council since they called an all-out stoppage last Tuesday in a dispute over the number of the taxis in the city.
Coventry Taxi Association was then set to hold another vote of members today on whether cabbies want to fight on, or return to work.
But leading Labour councillor Lindsley Harvard said last night they had made no approach to him over talks.
Ruling Labour councillors last night agreed not to cave in to cabbies’ demands they impose an immediate block on issuing any more licences.
Self-employed striking cabbies – who have gone without pay for a week – claim nearly 1,000 black cab and private hire licences is too many and is ruining their livelihoods, with only 130 taxi spaces making pick-ups difficult.
But Coun Harvard insists he must act on advice from the council’s lawyers. He says imposing a temporary cap on licences now could leave the council being sued by some taxi drivers.
Coun Harvard, the city services cabinet member, wants to formally approve tomorrow the commissioning of a three-month independent review into supply and demand for cabs.
Only after the review would he consider if a cap on licences would be “in the interests of the Coventry public”, he said.
He also wants to increase the annual licence fee paid by cabbies – to pay for consultants Jacobs’ survey, which could cost up to £40,000.
Cabbies would have a further four weeks to comment on the council’s plans, said Coun Harvard.
Imran Zaman, the taxi association’s leader, wants to present “evidence” to Coun Harvard that other councils have imposed a temporary cap without first holding a review – and have conducted much cheaper surveys.
Coun Harvard conceded Cardiff City Council was among them, but said he had to follow his own council’s legal advice, which had now been backed by an independent barrister.
Mr Zaman is urging him to seek further legal opinion in light of other councils’ policies.
He said the association’s legal advisers were considering a judicial review of the council’s ruling in the High Court.
He added: “We apologise to the public for any inconvenience. We are picking up very elderly, sick and disabled for free if they need help.”
Duo arrested at Coventry train station
POLICE have arrested two men – believed to be taxi drivers – following a dispute at Coventry train station.
The pair – a 46-year-old from Holbrooks and a 51-year-old from the Henley Green area – were both arrested on suspicion of assault.
Police were called to the city’s train station just before 2.15am on Saturday.
Some Coventry taxi drivers returned to their pickets at the start of the month in an on-going dispute with the city council about the number of taxi licences being issued.
Drivers not striking have claimed they have been intimidated by those on the pickets.
A British Transport Police (BTP) spokesman said: “Officers were called to the taxi rank close to Coventry train station after reports of a disturbance in the early hours of Saturday. West Midlands Police officers initially attended the incident, but British Transport Police officers are now investigating.
“Two men – a 46-year-old and a 51-year-old – were arrested on suspicion of assault. Both were later released on police bail pending further inquiries.
“BTP is aware of an ongoing dispute among taxi drivers surrounding licensing issues.”