Taxi drivers set for lunchtime protest in Shrewsbury

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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 vote to call off strike

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.

Imran Zaman, chairman of Coventry Taxi Association

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.


Inverness taxi driver gets three-month suspension

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.”

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Increase our fares – say taxi drivers

TAXI chiefs have called for a rise in fares to help keep the struggling trade on the road.

 They say they have been hammered by the recession and big rises in costs and have no choice but to pass some of this on to passengers.

 A formal request for an increase in tariffs has now gone in to Neath Port Talbot Council.

 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.”


Coventry’s striking taxi drivers threaten legal action

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.”


Dundee Taxi Association chief says some wheelchairs are just too big to carry

The size and weight of some modern wheelchairs is making it difficult for taxi drivers in Dundee to pick up disabled passengers, a body representing cabbies in the city has claimed.

Dundee Taxi Association (DTA) admits that some vehicles in the city have problems with accommodating large wheelchairs and have even caused one driver to injure himself when trying to secure one.

Tony Waters, secretary of the DTA, made the admission after The Courier reported that Dundee mother Linda Duff said she had been ignored when trying to hail a taxi for herself and her disabled daughter Claire, who uses an electric wheelchair to get around.

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.”


Taxi driver’s ear bitten off in attack on fifth day in his new job

A TAXI driver had part of his ear bitten off during a vicious attack outside a Grimsby supermarket.

Trevor Blyth was picking up a customer at the rear of Somerfield, in Osbourne Street, at about 11.15am yesterday, when the incident occurred.

His boss, Per Svendsen, of Revel Cars, in the town’s Church Street, said: “We heard Trevor was reversing to turn around and there was a woman behind his car with a pram or a pushchair.

THE SCENE: Somerfield in Grimsby

“He stopped the car and didn’t hit her, but a man who was nearby saw what happened and went crazy.

“He smashed the front window of the car.

“When Trevor got out to try to stop him, there was a scuffle and the man pushed him and then bit his ear off.

“I just can’t believe it has happened.”

Mr Blyth, who only started working for Revel last Wednesday, has been a taxi driver for a number of years.

He previously worked for Country Cabs in New Waltham.

He was taken to Grimsby’s Diana, Princess Of Wales Hospital before being transferred to Hull Royal Infirmary to undergo an emergency operation to try to save his ear.

Speaking to the Grimsby Telegraph before an ambulance came to transport him from Grimsby to Hull, Mr Blyth said: “They’re taking me to Hull so they can carry out an operation to try to re-attach my ear.

“They can’t do it in Grimsby.

“He bit a large part of my ear off.”

Humberside Police were today appealing for anybody who witnessed the attack to come forward.

Spokesman James Cartwright said: “Police are investigating an incident which happened shortly before 11.18am yesterday in the car park outside the Somerfield supermarket in Osborne Street, Grimsby.

“An altercation took place at the rear of the supermarket, between three men, and possibly a woman.

“It resulted in one of the men, thought to be a taxi driver, suffering serious injuries to his ear.

“The man required treatment at the scene before he was taken to the Diana, Princess Of Wales Hospital.

“Police attended the area and conducted a search for the two men and the woman thought to have been involved.

“An investigation is under way and any witnesses are asked to contact Humberside Police.”

Mr Blyth was driving a black Fiat Doblo EuroCab.


NTA to give evidence

The National Taxi Association has been requested by the transport select committee to give evidence on 15th March 2011.

The NTA delegation to the select committee will be finalised at a meeting on 22nd February and announced to members in due course.

The select committee enquiry has caused perturbment amongst the Hackney Carriage trade across England and Wales during the past month, especially considering the performance of the first round of witnesses, whose performance was considered lackluster by some trade journalists.

This website will endeavour to keep you informed.

Court to rule on cabbie dash decor

Quebec taxi driver fined for dashboard adornments

A Montreal taxi driver who is defending his right to decorate his cab with religious objects, a Canadian flag and photos will hear a judge’s ruling Tuesday.

Montreal taxi driver Arieh Perecowicz has said he is not willing to remove the mementoes, including photos and religious items, that cover the inside of his cab. (CBC)

Arieh Perecowicz says the items, including a Remembrance Day poppy and small Jewish prayer scrolls should be allowed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

He’s asked the city’s municipal court to cancel $1,400 in fines, and award him damages of $5,000.

Montreal’s taxi bureau says Perecowicz isn’t the victim of discrimination, but did break a bylaw.

Section 98 of the city’s taxi regulations says drivers may not have any objects in the car that aren’t related to driving thir cab.

During a hearing in 2009, a Montreal taxi inspector told the court that Perecowicz’s car was the dirtiest cab she had ever seen, with photos blocking the gas gauge and speedometer.

Perecowicz, a regular at the Cavendish Mall taxi stand Côte-Saint-Luc, said no one has ever complained about the way he decorates his cab — except the city.

He says that only happened after he complained the cab bureau wasn’t cracking down on unlicensed taxi drivers.

Perecowicz also accused the bureau of ticketing a Canadian flag, but not a Quebec one.

He says he has received seven tickets over the years, on the grounds he displays too many dashboard items.

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Taxis could be forced to carry large ID numbers on their roofs

Andy Woodward, secretary of Oxford Taxi Cab Association

TAXIS in Oxford could have large numbers stuck on their roofs so they can be seen by police and CCTV operators.

Police officers said taxis were occasionally used by criminals and large numbers on the roofs would make them easier to track down in a chase.

They pitched the idea at a meeting with representatives from the city taxi trade last week, but were met with a mixed reaction.

If it goes ahead, police believe they could be the first force in the country to pioneer the idea.

Alan Woodward, secretary of the City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association, said: “Drivers were concerned paint work might start to deteriorate and were concerned it would devalue their cars.

“There needs to be some more investigation done into the type of material that’s going to be used.”

He added the numbers could leave a dull area on the vehicles’ roofs and they would have to be re-sprayed before being sold.

Mr Woodward said drivers were also concerned if numbers went missing or peeled off police might trace the wrong car by mistake.

Police cars and ambulances have numbers on their roofs already.

Det Sgt John Linsdell came up with the idea, and Oxford City Council is looking to take it forward in conjunction with local taxi companies.

The numbers could cost as little as £12, he said.

Det Sgt Linsdell said: “We would like to do it with the co-operation of the trade and with the support of our partners. I have taken the idea to the trade and asked them to consider the issues.

“Personally, I think it would be a good idea. People who commit serious crimes may leave the scene in a taxi or private hire car and this would assist us to trace them at an early stage of the enquiry.

“The police helicopter and CCTV services would be able to see the vehicles clearly.”

Det Sgt Linsdell said at the moment it could take time to trace the car a suspect got into, but being able to identify the vehicle immediately would increase chances of the crime being solved.

He also said CCTV in the city did not always pick up number plate details.

He said: “I can think of two cases last year that my team dealt with where serious offences took place and taxis were part of the investigation. If we had been able to identify the taxis at an early stage the chances of success would have improved.”

Julian Alison, Oxford City Council’s licensing team leader, said: “Oxford City Council’s licensing team is working with the police and local taxi companies to look at taking this forward.

“We are interested in assisting any initiative that will help make Oxford a safer place to visit, work and live in.”