Angry taxi drivers threaten strike over proposed new regulations

PUBLISHED: 13:54 08 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:34 06 May 2010

ANGRY taxi drivers in the St Albans district are threatening strike action following the council s proposed change in licensing laws. New reforms would include a 10-year ban on driving taxis for those who have lost their taxi licence, and a maximum allow

ANGRY taxi drivers in the St Albans district are threatening strike action following the council's proposed change in licensing laws.

New reforms would include a 10-year ban on driving taxis for those who have lost their taxi licence, and a maximum allowance of six penalty points on their licence for all employed in the trade.

The district council sent the Hackney carriage consultation document to all taxi and mini-cab drivers in the area last month and gave them a month to comment.

Until now the council has relied on advice from the Home Office and the Department of Transport to determine its licensing policy. But senior licensing officer Karen Holland said it was time to develop a local code of conduct.

She added: "The Home Office guidelines are now 16-years-old and the council feels they no longer reflect the criminality in society. We therefore propose to introduce a Convictions Policy for St Albans district, and as part of that process we are consulting all those who currently hold a licence with the council".

Terence Flanagan, secretary of the driver's branch of trade union GMB, said he was outraged by the document. "GMB has never seen such an insulting document issued by any council. Many of the proposals are preposterous. The trade is very well prepared to use industrial action if necessary and in this event there will be no cabs whatsoever in the district over a given week".

St Albans and Harpenden taxi driver Iftakhar Ahmed also predicted a strike. He added, "It's very easy to get more than six points on your licence with the police hiding around every corner. I'm offended by the patronising tone of the document, and it has ruined our reputation as safe and careful drivers."

Mr Ahmed, aged 38, also attacked the new "presumption-of-guilt" clause, where the driver has to prove his or her innocence when a customer makes a complaint.

A number of other complaints have been made against the council including its apparent neglect of more serious issues surrounding the trade.

The number of cabs in the area was deregulated by the council a few years ago, and there has been a large increase in the number of taxis on the roads as a result. Mr Ahmed said: "The situation is ridiculous: the number of cabs waiting at Harpenden station, for example, has multiplied by eight since the change."

Mrs Hollands explained that the district council's prerogative was to protect the public and said she hoped the situation could be resolved peacefully. She added: "The police have congratulated the council and the taxi trade in the past for the high standard of their vehicles and the council wants to maintain these high standards for drivers' licences.

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