‘We’d rather quit than paint our taxi blue’ say Bristol cabbie couple

A COUPLE with 77 years of experience as taxi drivers between them have said they would rather lose their livelihood than paint their car blue.

Michael and Pamela Maddock are furious with Bristol City Council’s decision to force all Hackney carriage drivers to paint their vehicles ‘Bristol Blue’.

If drivers don’t respray their cars by May 1 they could be fined or lose their licence.

Although both are of retirement age, the couple hoped to continue working to avoid relying on their pensions.

Mr Maddock, 67, said: “It’s a stupid decision, forcing people out of work. It’s time someone took a stand.

“We have never claimed any benefit from the state but now things are about to change thanks to some crackpot who decided it might be nice to paint all the taxis blue.

“For me this is the final straw. This is vandalism. To devalue our main asset for no good reason is just not good sense.”

The couple paid £18,000 for the black Toyota Previa and share it between them for jobs.

Mr Maddock argued that respraying a vehicle can reduce the resale value by up to £1,000.

He said: “With fuel at record prices and the cost of insurance up yet again things are pretty bad in the taxi trade already.

“A taxi driver is not allowed to increase what he charges, he just has to work longer hours from a decreasing amount of available work to cover the taxi expenses.

“This is not going to give Bristol a better quality service; all this is will do is change the colour of a sinking ship.

“We were made to buy these vehicles so they are wheelchair accessible.

“But disabled people want saloon cars so they use private hire.

“We are retirement age but we were hoping to carry on with it.

“There are lots of other guys that have still got plenty of years left to go that are being forced into this situation.”

Mrs Maddock, 70, has been a taxi driver for 37 years.

She said: “It’s absolutely ludicrous. It’s awful we’ve got to pack it in, but we’re not bowing to them any more.

“What they should be doing is inspecting the inside of vehicles, it’s not the colour.

“How many blue cars are there on the road? You see a taxi because of the taxi sign, it’s the same all over the world.”

As reported in the Evening Post last week, only 332 of the 799 licensed hackneys have been painted the right colour and the deadline is fast approaching. The council adopted the Bristol Blue policy in 2008, hoping it would give Bristol an iconic city image like New York and its yellow cabs.

It has also argued that having one colour for Hackney carriages is reassuring for the public who want to know they are using a licensed taxi.

But drivers have never been pleased with the approach, or the three-year deadline that was imposed upon them.

Council spokeswoman Vicky O’Loughlin said: “We work closely with the taxi trade and do all we can to support them.

“They are an integral and valued part of the city’s public transport system.

“While it is sad if long-term drivers leave the trade, our first priority must be to protect the safety of the public.

“Ensuring taxis are easily recognisable by adopting one colour is fully backed by the police as being far safer for passengers and has been adopted by many cities.

“By ensuring only Hackney carriages are blue, it incidentally helps to protect the taxi drivers’ trade by preventing private hire drivers or others from picking up passengers.

“The taxi trade were consulted on the blue policy. They were then given an extended period of three years (at their request) to arrange for their taxis to be blue.

“The cost of applying paint or a plastic film has been quoted as well under £1,000, which could well be allowed as tax deductable.

“This measure is one of many taken to protect the safety and rights of passengers.”

source: http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/news/

Half of taxi drivers could lose licence unless they paint cabs ‘Bristol Blue’

MORE than half of the taxis in Bristol could be forced off the road within weeks unless their owners paint them the right shade of blue.

More than 450 cabbies only have until May 1 to get their vehicles resprayed.

In 2008 the city council decided all licensed Hackney carriages should be painted “Bristol Blue” to create a city image along the lines of New York’s yellow cabs. They gave drivers three years to carry out the work.

But with less than seven weeks to go until the deadline, only 332 of the 799 registered in the city have been painted the right colour.

Drivers have been sent letters by the council telling them that if they do not comply they could be fined or have their licence taken away from them.

All the drivers the Evening Post spoke to yesterday said they would meet the deadline because they had no other choice. But the 467 cars in need of a respray at garages and paint shops in the next 45 days represent more than 10 per day, including weekends.

The cost of a respray varies according to the size of the vehicle but averages around £1,500.

Some drivers have complained of it taking up to three weeks to get their vehicle back, which is three weeks of lost earnings.

Originally the council had wanted the colour changes made within two years but agreed to extend that to three after protests from drivers.

The rules apply to Hackney carriages, which can ply for trade on the street and at ranks, and do not apply to private hire vehicles, which have to be pre-booked.

Shafiq Ahmed, of the National Taxi Association, told the Evening Post the reason many drivers won’t have repainted their car yet is they can’t afford it.

He said: “Since 2008 we have had a policy of deregulation, so there is no cap on the number of taxis on the road. There’s a shrinking market due to the recession.

“We’ve also got a ludicrous situation where vehicles are blue in colour but because they’re not the right shade of blue they’re having to be resprayed. Customers are not going to walk up to a taxi with a colour chart and say ‘Sorry, it’s the wrong shade of blue’.

“We’re not exactly sure what the council will do on May 1, they haven’t made it clear.

“I find it ludicrous they could take a vehicle off the road. The council is not living in the real world.”

The trade asked the council in December to extend the deadline for the colour to be introduced but Mr Ahmed says they were refused.

The move to adopt the uniform livery has never been popular with drivers in the city.

When the council made the decision Hackney drivers held a Saturday night strike. A group of drivers also tried taking the council to court over the decision but abandoned their case in the early stages.

For some drivers the respray means a loss of revenue from advertising, as the new rules state adverts can only appear below the window line.

Pete Taylor, 55, of Bishopston, said: “I’ve had an advert contract for two years but I have had to end it next month.

“I will lose the revenue as well as the cost of the respray.

“I think they’re doing it for aesthetic reasons rather than safety. It’s a waste of time.”

Since the original decision was made the council has said it will accept five specific shades of blue that are close to “Bristol Blue”.

Many drivers argued that by accepting more than one shade, the council wasn’t even achieving its own objective.

The council says the uniform livery was adopted to “improve public safety and prevent crime”.

Council spokeswoman Vicky O’Loughlin said: “We would like to thank the Hackney carriage owners who have shown responsibility by adopting the Bristol Blue colour early.

“The number of taxi owners who are bringing in their vehicles to show they are the correct colour is increasing day by day.

“We are making efforts to contact owners of vehicles that are not the approved colour to remind them they will be in breach of their licence conditions from May 1 and that enforcement action will be taken. Letters were sent out last month and reminders are being sent this month. There will also be an exercise in April where officers contact the remaining drivers face to face to ensure the message has got through.

“We are confident that the majority of Hackney carriages will be blue by May 1.”

http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/news/HAL … ticle.html

Pendle cabbies face Asian clothing ban

ANGRY Pendle hackney carriage leader Mohammed Ilyas says drivers are unhappy at the council’s dress code plans.

TAXI drivers have accused council bosses of racial discrimination over plans to introduce a dress code which would exclude traditional Asian clothing.

Cabbies in Pendle said they were opposed to the code which rules out wearing a shalwar kameez, a traditional outfit consisting of a tunic and loose fitting pants.

The vast majority of Pendle’s taxi drivers are Asian men, many of whom wear the garments on a daily basis.

MEP and former Pendle councillor Sajjad Karim said he thought the proposals were ‘ludicrous’.

And Mohammed Akram, chairman of Pendle Private Hire Association, said drivers were extremely unhappy with the plans.

Mr Akram said: “A lot of them are saying it would be discrimination because it would take away their rights.”

But the council said the policy had been designed to ‘raise and maintain the profile’ of the taxi trade.

Glen Bulcock, chairman of Rossendale Taxi Association and owner of GB Taxis, said Rossendale Council had put forward a similar proposal recently, but it was rejected following a number of concerns.

He said: “It was refused because it infringes on human rights and, 90 per cent, if not more, of all taxi drivers in Rossendale are Asian.

“You can’t force Asian people to adhere to a code that doesn’t include their national dress.

“One or two councillors found it laughable that it was being introduced, and eventually our council did see sense and it was removed from the policy.

“As long as the taxi drivers look smart and are hygienic there shouldn’t be a problem. I hope they kick it out in Pendle.”

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said being smartly dressed was important, but taxi drivers could look smart in traditional dress.

He said: “It is not acceptable to tell people they can’t wear dress that they wear for religious requirements or duties and it is important public authorities recognise and respect that.

“People at Pendle Council should spend more time tackling real issues such as the safety of taxi drivers instead of pointing the finger.

“At a time of cuts perhaps money could be saved in licensing departments by not coming up with such ridiculous ideas.”

Anjum Anwar, Blackburn Cathedral’s dialogue development officer, said she was also concerned about the plans.

She said: “I believe people should dress smartly whatever vocation they are in but I don’t believe you can dictate to people what they can and can’t wear, especially when it comes to sensitive issues like this.”

“If taxi drivers wore a suit and bow tie would it make them better drivers?”

Pendle Council said the code would require male drivers to wear smart trousers, shirt, and shoes and their female counterparts long trousers, knee-length skirt and blouse or knee-length dress.

Cabbies would be banned from wearing tracksuits, shorts, football and rugby tops, beachwear, short skirts, short dresses and flip flops as well as dirty or ripped clothing, and items with ‘offensive’ or ‘suggestive’ words or graphics.

Under the code drivers would be allowed to don football or rugby tops during significant sporting events such as the World Cup or Six Nations.

It would apply to all drivers of minicabs and black cabs.

According to Mr Akram, the majority of taxi drivers were also opposed for financial reasons and were already struggling to meet spiralling running costs.

He said: “This is an extra cost and burden, which I don’t think we are in a position to carry.

“I have done an investigation and the response from taxi-users is that drivers should be able to wear whatever they like as long as they are providing a service.”

Mohammed Ilyas, chairman of Pendle Hackney Carriage Association, said: “These drivers need to be comfortable and a lot of them like to wear tracksuits.

“Now the council is asking them to wear trousers and a lot of them can’t afford it. I don’t think it is right.”

Mohammed Arif, chairman of Burnley Private Hire Association, said he would not like to see such a proposal in his borough.

He said: “There’s nothing wrong with wearing something like a shalwar kameez.

“I think everybody should be allowed to wear whatever they like as long as it’s appropriate.

“There just needs to be a bit of common sense.”

Pendle’s Taxi Licensing Committee will discuss the proposal at Nelson Town Hall, at 7pm tonight.

Members will be told 19 out of 25 taxi operators sent a questionnaire were against the proposed introduction of a dress code.

In a report to the meeting, the council said: “Whilst Pendle Council does not wish to impose such standards by way of conditions to any licence, we expect, however, that such standards will be maintained at all times.”

Peter Atkinson, the council’s engineering and special projects manager, said: “It was agreed in principle at the November meeting of the taxi licensing committee that a dress code be introduced.

“The actual detail of such a code has yet to be agreed and will be debated at the committee’s meeting tonight.”

Coun Pauline McCormick, chairman of the taxi licensing committee, said: “A dress code will raise and maintain the professionalism of the taxi trade.”



Furious cabbie could refuse to serve councillors

A FURIOUS cabbie may refuse business from councillors after news of a licence fee hike broke last week.

Jason Rider has been a Hackney Carriage driver in the borough of Spelthorne for 23 years.

He claims to have given an immaculate service to councillors who have now agreed to put up the taxi licence fee at a time of considerable financial straights for drivers.

Mr Rider, who lives in Viola Avenue, Staines, claims he could cull councillor business as he grapples with soaring diesel prices.

He said: “The council seem to be making up the rules as they go along, why don’t they have a forum for taxi drivers?

“Why should I give them my personal service, I’ve looked after so many of the councillors over the years. When I’ve taken them to balls I’ve picked them up especially and looked after them.

“I am considering not doing it any more, these councillors are elected respected members of the community but it is clearly the officers who are making the decisions.

“We have elected the councillors but the power is with the bureaucrats. I feel that the councillors have let me down because they haven’t stood up to these people.”

Mr Rider, 46, has become disillusioned with the council who have put up licence fees without reviewing Hackney Carriage tariffs.

This means he is unable to pass the extra charges onto customers and has to let the hike cut into profits.

The council released a letter to all private hire and Hackney Carriage drivers on Thursday last week outlining details of the new fees.

It said: “Following a review of current taxi and private hire licence fees by officers of the Council, Councillors have agreed to increase them.

“If you wish to make representations or objections to these proposed licence fees for 2011/2012, then they must be made in writing or by e-mail to us by 30 March 2011.

“The last review of your taxi tariff rates took place in July 2010 and the new rates were introduced in August 2010. Bearing in mind the continual increase in fuel prices and the need to increase our licence fees, we will again review the taxi tariff rates later this year.”

source: http://www.stainesnews.co.uk/

‘Worn and illegible’ licence cost me my business claims Fenland taxi driver

Keith Sturgess who is complaining to the FDC after losing his taxi licence

A FENLAND taxi driver claims his business was destroyed after Fenland District Council refused to renew his licence because it was worn and illegible – but the council insists that it has done everything possible to enable him to continue

Keith Sturgess, 55, says he spent a decade building up his company Keith’s Taxis. But when he applied to renew his Hackney Carriage driving licence in 2007 he was refused because he produced an “old-style, green driving licence which was very worn and had broken into six parts, meaning that key parts of his licence were illegible.”

Mr Sturgess claims that although his licence was a “bit tatty” he visited the police station and the DVLA who confirmed it was his.

Keith Sturgess who is complaining to the FDC after losing his taxi licence

A council spokesman said: “We are not suggesting Mr Sturgess had points or any restrictions on his driving licence but we have to ensure that the licence document provided is current, up to date and gives the correct information. Given the illegibility of his licence, we were unable to make those checks.

“Within days of his application Mr Sturgess met representatives from FDC and was asked to apply for a new driving licence. Had he done this at the time, we would have been able to process the application.

“However, Mr Sturgess failed to submit the necessary licence in time. Consequently, we wrote to him advising that he would now have to reapply as a new driver because his old Hackney Carriage Licence had expired.”

Keith Sturgess who is complaining to the FDC after losing his taxi licence

Mr Sturgess, whose cab sits idle and rotting in the driveway of his Welney home, said: “I’ve lost everything. I can’t even afford to heat my house. I’ve worked all my life and now I haven’t got anything to show for it, all because of this.

“I had a damn good business. I didn’t do it just for the money. I did it because I enjoyed being with people. I used to make sure people would get home at night even if they couldn’t pay me.

“I loved it. Taxi driving was a big part of my life and I lost that.”

In 2008, more than a year after his renewal application was refused, Mr Sturgess launched an appeal in the Magistrates’ Court but this was withdrawn because it had not been made within the 21-day limit.

The council spokesman said officers had met with Mr Sturgess to discuss his complaints and that no new application had been received from him since the refusal in September 2007.

Mr Sturgess' licence, which was refused by the council as it was worn and illegible.

He said: “Mr Sturgess could have applied at any time and his application would have been dealt with, as many others are on a daily basis. We have repeatedly invited Mr Sturgess to make such an application; it may well be that had he done so he could have returned to the trade several years ago.

“Over the past three years we have sent application packs to Mr Sturgess several times; recently we also delivered the application pack to his home address by hand to enable him to apply for the Hackney Carriage Licence.

“To date no completed application from Mr Sturgess has been received.”

Mr Sturgess, who now works part-time in a fish and chip shop, added: “It’s too late for me to start the business again. After all these years I still get some calls asking me for a lift. I have to tell them I’m not operating.”

source: http://www.cambstimes.co.uk/news/

Taxi checks find two thirds were flouting law

Police carrying out spot-checks on black cabs and private hire taxis in Chesterfield found almost two thirds of drivers to be flouting the law.

The night of checks by police, trading standards, customs and excise and Chesterfield Borough Council’s licensing department found just 16 of the 46 taxis checked were roadworthy and had correct licenses.

The other 30 drivers had an incorrect licence or defects on their vehicle including broken lights, low or leaking brake fluid and no fire extinguisher.

Eight cars had tyres with an illegally low tread, three of which were so poor the drivers were issued with notices to remove the cars from the road immediately.

These taxis cannot go back onto the roads until they have passed an MOT.

The taxis, from a variety of local companies, were stopped and checked by the team based at the Stagecoach bus depot, Sheffield Road, on Friday.  

PC Steve Simmons of the Holmebrook and Rother Safer Neighbourhood Team organised the operation.

He said: “It was really refreshing to see the different agencies working together with a common aim to reduce the risk to passengers in licensed taxi or private hire vehicles.

“What we identified, sadly, is there are many vehicles being used for the carriage of paying passengers which are substandard for the use on roads. There is clearly more work to be done in this field.”

source: http://www.thisisderbyshire.co.uk/news/

All-island taxi plans to go before Tynwald

Taxis will be allowed to ply for trade from anywhere in the Isle of Man under proposals going before Tynwald.

Drivers are currently restricted to picking up fares within their licensing district, of which there are four.

It means a taxi dropping off a customer outside its own district cannot earn any money on the return journey.

During a public consultation, 78% of respondents favoured the change, which the government argues has economic and environmental benefits.

The Department of Infrastructure believes relaxing the restrictions will boost drivers’ earnings and cut down on unnecessary journeys.

‘Status quo’

Infrastructure Minister Phil Gawne said: “It is a nonsense in this day and age to have taxis running round the island empty because of outdated restrictions on where they can operate.

“Not surprisingly, there are those in the taxi trade who want to protect the status quo.”

“This is indeed a significant change, which is why I have committed the department to review its effects in 12 months’ time. Our priority must be in the best interests of the public, the customer and the environment.”

The proposal goes before Tynwald later in the month.

Source; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-12658779

All-Island system ‘still flawed’, says taxi official

Ray Teare

Chairman of the Isle of Man Taxi Federation Ray Teare says his organisation is entirely against the proposed shake up of the local trade.

Next week, Tynwald will be asked to approve an all-Island ply for hire system

At present, taxi plates are issued for four areas around the Island and drivers are not allowed to pick up fares outside their district.

The possible change to an all-Island system has been under discussion for many years, and previous attempts at reform have met fierce opposition from cabbies.

Mr Teare says the idea is still flawed: Ray Teare

source: http://www.manxradio.com/newsread.aspx?id=50627

Norfolk businesses pay price for sky high fuel costs

The increase in petrol prices is taking its toll on local businesses and charities.

Petrol prices have gone up 15pc in less than a year and have now reached a record high, with the average price across the UK standing at 130.68p a litre for unleaded and 136.14p for diesel yesterday. In an Evening News survey of Norwich pumps, the average for unleaded petrol was £1.29 and diesel was £1.34.

Yesterday, chief secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander announced plans to reduce fuel duty by 5p in island and remote communities – but it will not help people in Norfolk, only those in the Highlands, the Hebrides and Scilly Isles. Mr Alexander said the discount was intended to help “hard-hit families” who generally pay higher fuel prices due to their outlying locations.

But AA president Edmund King said: “There is a very strong case for fuel duty reductions across the board.”

In Norwich, many businesses and organisations said they were struggling.

Jill Gaul runs the Norwich Door to Door Charity, based at the community hospital on Bowthorpe Road, which provides affordable transport for more than 500 disabled people in the city, thanks to a network of “34 wonderful, brilliant volunteers”. But the rise in fuel prices is hitting them hard. “Our budget is completely shot. We’re £5,000 over budget on fuel for this year.”

The community transport group, of which Norwich Door to Door are members, will be holding its first forum next week and top of the agenda will be the cost of fuel. There will be discussions about the possibility of bulk-purchasing fuel for the group in an attempt to reduce outgoings.

Paul Starkings, who runs the Eaton-based driving school Aspire 2 Drive, said he has had no choice but to increase prices and says the government must withhold the planned increases to fuel duty. He said: “We were very reluctant to increase prices, but we have to make a living.” Paul is also considering adding a surcharge to learner drivers who live outside the city, just to cover the extra cost of fuel.

Duncan Snelling of Jarretts Removals and Storage, based on Waterworks Road, near Dereham Road, said that the costs have been detrimental to his business: “We work in a very competitive market where the cheapest is chosen. We just can’t put prices up in line with fuel.” He said that he had looked into more fuel-efficient vehicles, but that it was not cost-effective as an upgrade to each vehicle costs approximately £4,000.

One of the hardest hit areas is the taxi trade in the city.

Bob Marti, who has been driving a hackney carriage for 10 years, said that this time of year is notoriously bad for business. He called for unity among cab drivers to do something to fight the continuous rise in prices.

Jason Lovett, from Loyalty Taxis on Prince of Wales Road, said: “It’s coming to the point where it is not going to be worth driving. With the latest increase in petrol prices and the increase in insurance, we are going to have no choice but to put up our fares.”

Spiralling costs of repairs, fuel and insurance, coupled with a slow economy are adding pressure to the already expensive business of running a taxi. A hackney carriage with automatic transmission averages around 20 miles to the gallon and a new vehicle costs in the region of £30,000, which adds huge hire purchase costs onto the outgoings of cabbies who don’t own their vehicle outright.

One driver, who did not want to be named, said it was not uncommon for taxi drivers in Norwich to work in excess of ninety hours a week just to ‘tread water’. Another driver, who also did not want to be named, warned that if prices continued to rise there was a danger that some drivers would start using red diesel, which is taxed at a much lower rate, but is illegal to use in cars.

Minicab companies are free to set their own fares, while black cabs or hackney carriages have set fares regulated by the city council.

Increasing the fares of hackney carriages will also be up for discussion at the next Hackney Trade Association meeting. But opinion seems divided between the drivers themselves. One unnamed hackney cab driver said that he thought a further price increase would ‘kill the business’.

Simon Callender, who runs ABC Taxis, based on Paddock Street, off Heigham Street, said the fuel price rises came on top of other problems. “People have a significant lack of disposable income, especially since VAT went up at the start of the year and as a result business has been noticeably flat.

“We haven’t had to put prices up yet, but we probably will by the end of the month and that will have an impact on the number of customers.”

Hackney carriage driver Dave Parker, who is often based at Norwich railway station, said: “It’s rubbish. They have been getting worse for the past three years. I was making more money when I started 13 years ago.”

At the railway station yesterday, other hackney carriage drivers agreed. Colin Dakers said: “In twenty years of driving these have been the worst three. The fuel increase just adds to the problems of increasing insurance and parts.”

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: “We haven’t been approached by the hackney carriage trade association with an application to increase fares, so at present there are no plans to put up fares for customers in Norwich.”



Licensing chiefs in U-turn over PH Driver whose car was ‘wrong shade of silver’

Dad-of-two Asif Khan, 31, was forced out of work when he swapped his private-hire car from a silver Volkswagen Passat to a silver Honda Accord.

A private hire driver who was put off the road because his car was the wrong shade of silver has got his badge back – after a U-turn by town hall bosses.

Dad-of-two Asif Khan, 31, was forced out of work when he swapped his private-hire car from a silver Volkswagen Passat to a silver Honda Accord.

Mr Khan, of Leicester Road, Cheetham Hill, was told by Manchester council that his badge could not be renewed because the new car did not meet its strict colour code.

But after the M.E.N. printed the story earlier this week, he was called to a meeting at the town hall where he received an apology from licensing chiefs.

They gave him his badge back and admitted they had made a mistake, saying the shade of silver was ‘acceptable’.

Mr Khan, who has worked as a private hire driver in Manchester for seven years, today spoke of his relief and said it had saved him from having to buy a new car or pay a huge bill to get his cab re-sprayed.

He said: “I’m delighted that I’m back on the road because I have a family to support and need to be working.

“It was ridiculous all along and I’m glad they have held their hands up and said sorry. They said they had passed cars like mine before and admitted they had been inconsistent in the process.

“I’m grateful to the M.E.N. for putting the issue into the spotlight – if it wasn’t for the publicity, I don’t think they would have changed their minds. It was a worrying time so I’m a relieved man now – I always knew I was in the right.

“How can a car be the wrong shade of silver?”

Mr Khan originally fell foul of a safety measure brought in by the council to help crackdown on bogus drivers.

They ruled that private hire cars must be white or silver and have issued a colour ‘swatch’ showing the exact shades which qualify.

But Mr Khan said there was virtually no difference between his new private hire car and the town hall’s chart of accepted colours.

A council spokesman said: “We have examined Mr Khan’s vehicle, and although it does not match the accepted colour, we are aware that another car of the same make and colour was previously licensed. We have therefore agreed to license Mr Khan’s vehicle to ensure consistency, and we are looking to put a system in place to make sure this situation does not arise again. Our private hire colour policy is in place to improve customer safety by making sure they can easily recognise properly licensed cars, and we have worked closely with drivers and operators to make sure they understand the requirements.”

source: http://menmedia.co.uk/