Taxi drivers threaten to protest over penalties
BIRMINGHAM could be ground to a halt by a go-slow taxi protest over a controversial crackdown on licence breaches.
The council has approved a new penalty point system to punish infringements including smoking in vehicles, using mobiles phones while driving and even ‘unsatisfactory’ appearance.
But concerns were raised it could be the “final nail in the coffin” for drivers licensed in Birmingham who already have to compete with others licensed by neighbouring councils, particularly Wolverhampton where it is cheaper, quicker and arguably easier
However, council chiefs have hit back saying standards need to be upheld for the sake of public safety.
Officials warned there was a high level of non-compliance of licence conditions. One driver was even caught watching a football match on a tablet attached to the dashboard while driving.
A similar scheme was introduced in Leicester in 2015 which prompted Hackney Carriage drivers to hold a protest.
The RMT transport union ‘categorically rejects’ the proposals. Raja Amin, secretary of the Birmingham Rail branch, said: “Birmingham City Council has continued to introduce measures that make drivers’ lives difficult, despite the council’s failure to introduce corresponding goodwill changes to protect the trade.
“Pirating is rampant in the city. Enforcement has failed dismally to keep up with the growing brazen disregard for the city by-laws by taxi drivers from outside the borough and even local drivers.
“This is great hypocrisy as the demand for professionalism seems to flow one way. Drivers are penalised willy-nilly but the city council’s failure to keep their end of the bargain is not put under scrutiny.”
Shawn Woodcock, acting licensing operations manager, said he had sympathy with drivers but declared it was “no reason to say our standards can be lowered”.
If a driver accrues 12 points in a year they will be hauled before officers and could be suspended for a week. If 24 points are obtained in 12 months they will be brought before a licensing sub-committee which will be minded to suspend their licence for a month.
More than 40 different breaches have been listed ranging from two points for faulty lights to 12 for carrying an offensive weapon.
Other breaches include unsatisfactory appearance (three points), defective tyres (four points per tyre), overcharging (six points), plying for hire (nine points) and using a phone whilst driving (nine points).
>A licence crackdown by the city council could be the final nail in the coffin for drivers, it has been claimed