This consultation is being issued for comments on changes to the minimum standards for vision, diabetes and epilepsy in relation to driving. Driver licensing in Great Britain (GB) is carried out by Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and in Northern Ireland (NI) by Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA). This document relates to licensing standards across the United Kingdom (UK); any reference to DVLA applies to DVA.
This document seeks views on changes to the medical standards for vision, diabetes and epilepsy.
The call went out just after 7.30am. Taxi dispatcher Maureen Lansley’s car had been clamped and the clamper van was blocking her in until she coughed up the fine. But the drivers at AC Cabs knew exactly what to do. They sent in the taxi-cab cavalry.
Within minutes, every available car in the area was racing to the aid of poor Maureen, the voice of the airwaves behind a thousand assignments.
Two cabs went into the car park and made sure the van was going nowhere. Others blockaded the exit while black cabs, minicabs and people-carriers encircled the site and kept the van corralled.
Oh, what a glorious moment for the ordinary driver against the curse of the clampers. For what followed was a nine-hour siege (‘ongoing dispute’ was the police’s phrase) involving more than 20 taxis and up to 40 drivers at its peak.
Last night Maureen’s ancient blue Renault was triumphantly freed after cab boss Ian Saxton gallantly paid an £80 fine to prevent his drivers facing arrest.
To cheers and applause from onlookers – and shouts of ‘power to the people’ from spectators in nearby flats – Keith the unfortunate clamper produced the key to the heavy duty padlock, took off the clamp… and finally got to go home.
Meanwhile Maureen was hailed as a heroine for refusing to bow to the clampers. Not to mention avoiding the £150 penalty she would further have incurred if a tow truck had been called out.
The drama began yesterday as Maureen, 53, was setting off for work at the cab company, where she assigns jobs over the radio to a fleet of local drivers.
Her car was parked in her own numbered space outside the flat where she lives in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. According to the clampers, it was not displaying a permit. According to Maureen, who does have a valid permit, it had simply slipped down behind the tax disc.
Even when she produced it, however, the clampers would not budge. They refused to remove the clamp until she paid £80, parked their white van in front of her car, and sat in it with their arms folded
‘I don’t see why I should have to pay £80 to park in my own space,’ Maureen said. ‘I already pay £1,000 a year in service charges and ground rent for that privilege. I called work to say I would be late. The next thing I know, all these drivers turned up.’
Paul Sutton, 60, blocked in the clamper van with his cab. ‘I came off duty and headed here as soon as I heard it over the radio,’ he said. ‘We are a brotherhood. We back each other up. I parked up to stop the clampers’ van from leaving.
‘Then the police turned up. The way I see it, the police are there to act on everyone’s behalf. But unfortunately, it always seems to be for the benefit of the clampers.’
The private car park is overlooked by several blocks of flats, some owned by Southend United footballers. Residents joined passers by to witness the stand-off and congratulate the cabbies.
The two clampers work for Preston-based National Clamps (motto: ‘We care!’) which is a member of the Parking Enforcement Trade Association. Its website boasts that ‘tried and tested management methods have proven to be almost 100 per cent effective in solving most parking related problems’. Safe to assume that being held captive by taxi drivers, however, is a problem previously untested.
Cowboy clampers who demand release fees after immobilising cars on private land are to be outlawed under new legislation, being introduced in the wake of a long-running campaign by the Daily Mail.
‘We clamped the lady’s car because she had no permit on display,’ Keith the clamper explained.
A photograph showed two tax disc holders on the windscreen but no permit, which is a green roundel the same size as a tax disc.
‘I saw her come out, sit in her car and put the permit in. She has accused me of getting into her car but I would not do that. It’s nothing personal, I do not know whose car it is when I clamp it. The rules are the rules. If she had a permit on show she would not have been clamped.’
Looking around him he added: ‘I have never had anything like this before, people blocking us in. It is not right and it is not fair.’
The siege of Southend was quelled after police warned the taxi drivers they could face arrest for threatening behaviour and public order offences.
Mr Saxton, the cab firm’s 58-year-old managing director, arranged to pay Maureen’s fine. ‘We came to support her because it was a complete injustice,’ he said. ‘And taxi drivers will always rally round when there’s an injustice being done.’
Up to 100 taxi drivers were due to take part in a two-hour demonstration in Shrewsbury today over plans for a shake-up of the black cab service in Shropshire.
Shrewsbury Drivers Action Group had initially planned to stage an all day picket at the Shirehall but claimed that due to massive public support, it had decided on a shorter protest to avoid customer disruption.
Members say they are outraged at Shropshire Council’s proposals to de-zone the county’s taxi structure.
Today’s picket was expected to run from midday until 2pm.
It follows a protest in Shrewsbury on January 28 when about 100 taxi drivers took part in a rolling roadblock.
COVENTRY taxi drivers are set to return to work today after voting last night to call off their strike.
Leaders say about 500 striking cabbies voted unanimously in favour of bringing a halt to eight days of widespread disruption.
They will go back to work today providing councillor Lindsley Harvard, as expected, formally rubber-stamps his plan for a three-month review into demand for taxis.
The cabbies claim there are too many taxis in the city.
They had been pressing for a temporary cap on licences while the review is carried out, but the council refused to back down.
Imran Zaman, chairman of Coventry Taxi Association, said he persuaded members to vote for a return to work, adding: “There was nothing else we could do.”
The vote followed the first talks yesterday with council chiefs since the strike began last Tuesday – as scores of cabbies protested outside.
Coun Harvard has told the drivers that, depending on the review’s findings, he would consider stopping Coventry City Council issuing any more taxi licences – the strikers’ key demand.
But the dispute is set to continue in the High Court, with the taxi association considering seeking a judicial review into the council’s refusal to impose a temporary cap on licences while the three-month review is carried out.
Coun Harvard was acting on advice from lawyers that imposing a cap now could result in the council being sued by other cabbies.
He is expected to rubber-stamp his plans – approved by fellow ruling Labour councillors on Monday – at his city services cabinet member’s meeting today.
The dispute has seen massive disruption with strikers blockading the city’s taxi ranks, preventing them being used by working cabbies.
A cavalcade of cabbies also staged a go-slow protest on the ring road during the evening rush-hour last Wednesday, and strikers have refused to do council-contracted school runs.
Cabbies say 950 licenced black cabs and private hire vehicles in the city is too many and is damaging their livelihoods.
Customers had made ‘catalogue’ of complaints to highland council
A Highland taxi driver had his operators licence suspended for three months yesterday after a “catalogue” of complaints from customers.
Four customers complained in just two months about Peter Worsfold, an Inverness taxi driver since 2007.
The Highland Licensing Committee was told that Paul Carpenter got into Mr Worsfold’s cab at about 1pm on August 10 last year and was told by Mr Worsfold that the short journey he requested and which would cost £3.90 was “a ridiculous fare”.
When asked if he wanted the fare, Mr Worsfold said “No, not really”.
Mr Carpenter got out and took another taxi instead and later complained to Highland Council’s trading standards unit.
Just weeks later on September 8, trading standards received a complaint from Hew Morrison who said he was ignored when he tried to engage in conversation with the taxi driver when he got into his cab at about 1.30am on September 5. He also claimed Mr Worsfold threw his change at him when he paid his fare, and nearly ran over his foot by driving off while he was getting out.
Mr Worsfold was interviewed by trading standards officers after both complaints and he was given “corrective advice” and told he would go before the licensing committee if there were any further complaints.
Mr Worsfold said he had no recollection of either incident.
The council received further complaints from Donna Dunbar and Marie Short, who got into Mr Worsfold’s taxi on October 4.
They were returning to Inverness from Glasgow by train and said Mr Worsfold threw their luggage into the boot of the car, possibly breaking a candle holder inside.
He then turned up the radio on their journey because he did not want to engage in conversation. They also complained that the back seat had a crumpled cover over it and that the car smelled “fusty”.
Vic Rawlins, chairman of Inverness Taxi Association, spoke on behalf of Mr Worsfold at the formal hearing yesterday.
He said: “It is not common to get a catalogue of complaints.
“Pete does not get out of his car and make conversation with a lot of the other drivers because of his hearing, probably because of his tinnitus – he just doesn’t hear.
“He does offer his sincere apologies if he was being unfair to them, but he can’t accept responsibility for the candle holder.”
Committee chairman and Inverness Central councillor Peter Corbett said: “I find it very sad to note three complaints in two months – some drivers don’t have complaints for years and years.
“This number of complaints is unusual.”
Culloden and Ardersier councillor Glynis Sinclair said: “Tourism is very important to this part of the world and I think it is a real shame if tourists are inflicted with this kind of bad manners.
“The very least we expect is good manners from the driver.”
Neath Port Talbot Taxi Proprietors Association secretary Bob Hoyles said: “The trade is really struggling.
“People are not spending so much on taxis because of the recession, so drivers are having to work longer hours to sustain a living.
“We have held back for the last two years. We have not had an increase in fares since 2008, but we just cannot go on.”
Mr Hoyles pointed out that fuel had reached an all-time high at £1.34 a litre, while insurance costs were increasing year on year and tyre prices had almost doubled since 2008.
He said the trade was also having to cope with a 2.5 per cent rise in VAT, licensing fees were going up every year and maintenance costs including MoT tests, were also escalating.
“I’ve just had phone calls from two drivers who own their own cars but cannot afford to keep them,” added Mr Hoyles.
“They are trying to sell them and will then be looking for driving work. That’s how bad it is getting.”
Trade leaders have already asked the council not to issue any more licences, arguing there are too many cabs on the road.
But before the council can do this, a survey must be carried out to show if there is any unmet demand. Because of its budget situation, the authority will not decide whether to pay for a survey until later this year.
Council licensing officer Jim Sullivan confirmed taxi fares had not increased since August 2008.
“Now that we have received the request we will assess it and get some costings done,” said Mr Sullivan.
“A report will be prepared but it will be for the licensing committee to make the final decision.”
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.”
Mrs Duff and Claire (20) had to make their own way back to their Clepington Street home from the city centre last month after failing to secure a lift, with Linda claiming many simply did not want the hassle of a disabled passenger.
Responding to the article, Mr Waters said the body has conducted investigations into the claims, concluding that some vehicles in the city’s taxi fleet are simply not capable of dealing with modern wheelchairs.
In a letter to The Courier, he said, “The Dundee Taxi Association were concerned about the lady’s complaint in The Courier so we carried out some inquiries to see if we could root out the bad apples.
“During our inquiries, one of our members told us that the lady in question has a wheelchair that is too big and too heavy to be safely transported in his type of taxi.
“The problem is because of the size and weight it is not easily turned or safely secured. The driver has tried to turn the electric wheelchair manually and hurt himself in doing so and was off work for seven days.
“The driver has made the cabs officers aware of this and they again iterated that if a wheelchair is too big and cannot be safely secured, it should not be transported.
“If the driver was to take a wheelchair passenger that was not strapped in properly he would be in trouble and breaking the law.”
Mrs Duff has said that the size of Claire’s wheelchair does make access to buses difficult.
Mr Waters added that the sheer bulk of some wheelchairs makes access hard on certain taxis, and fears other disabled passengers may also suffer unless certain kinds of vehicle are requested.
He added, “Unfortunately until there is a vehicle out there that fits all we are going to have these disturbing complaints.
“If the lady in question has been able to travel in a larger taxi she should take note of what type it is and request one from an office or look for one of these vehicles on the rank.
“Our chairman and the driver would be prepared to speak to the lady in question to explain the situation.”