Taxi drivers threaten to protest over penal­ties

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Carl Jack­son Lo­cal Democ­racy Re­porter

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

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