MINICAB drivers caught plying for hire on Birmingham’s streets face losing their license for a first offence following a meeting of city licensing chiefs.
The zero-tolerance policy has been adopted in a bid to improve the safety of passengers and protect trade for Birmingham’s army of legitimate black cab drivers.
And it follows the failure of a trial six-months suspension of licence to cut the numbers of minicabs illegally picking up passengers on the road.
Minicabs, officially known as private hire cars, must be pre-booked with a cab firm’s office, and cannot pick up people from the roadside.
Cabs doing this are not covered by insurance, while passengers are routinely warned not to get in cars they have not booked for safety reasons. Black Cabs, or Hackney Carriages, are the only vehicles allowed to pick up fares in this way.
In the year before the trial 37 drivers were caught plying for hire, but despite the threat of six months suspension the total rose to 87 cases.
Licensing officials believe these cases are the just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, with many hundreds going undetected. So the licensing committee has now voted to revoke the license for a first offence.
Coun Bruce Lines (Con, Bartley Green), who chaired an investigation into the issue, said: “The new policy seems to be draconian, but it has been developed in full consultation with Birmingham taxi drivers.
“Plying for hire is still a major problem and the current policy just isn’t working to deal with it. A stronger deterrent is needed.”
According to a survey on the council’s website, 76 per cent of respondents, both public and taxi drivers, were in favour of the zero-tolerance approach.
But Coun Majid Mahmood (Lab, Hodge Hill) was opposed to the upgrade. He said: “It seems unduly harsh for a first offence. Everyone is capable of making a mistake and deserves a second chance. I think a six month suspension was adequate and what is needed is more enforcement.
“We could be putting more and more drivers on the dole at a time when unemployment is already high,” he added.
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Birmingham Mail Dec 22 2011