Angry taxi drvers threaten weekend strike

PUBLISHED: 10:27 01 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:37 06 May 2010

ANGRY St Albans city cabbies are set to strike this weekend following a feud with the district council. The city centre will have no taxis operating between 10pm on Saturday and 4am on Sunday if city cab drivers vote in favour of the strike at a meetin

ANGRY St Albans city cabbies are set to strike this weekend following a feud with the district council.

The city centre will have no taxis operating between 10pm on Saturday and 4am on Sunday if city cab drivers vote in favour of the strike at a meeting today (Thursday).

The source of contention is a change in licensing laws for the taxi trade, an initiative first proposed by the council a couple of months ago. The new reforms, which include a maximum allowance of six driving licence penalty points for all employed in the trade, were confirmed at a licensing committee meeting last week despite opposition from the taxi drivers.

Terence Flanagan, secretary of the driver's branch of trade union GMB, said striking was the last resort . "We offered to negotiate with the licensing committee but they refused. So I am pretty confident that the strike on Saturday will go ahead because the city's professional drivers are determined to confront the council," he said.

The proposed strike on Saturday is also fuelled by the council's decision not to allow a fare increase for hackney carriages despite higher fuel costs. Mr Fl;anagan said: "Fares haven't increased for two years and the cost of diesel is considerably more expensive now than it was then. But seemingly the prospect of cab drivers being unable to pay their mortgages or being forced to leave the industry is of no concern to the council."

St Albans and Harpenden taxi driver Iftakhar Ahmed, who spoke on behalf of his colleagues at the committee meeting last week, said all of the cabbies he has spoken to had pledged their dedication to the strike. He added: "I'm definitely not going to work on Saturday evening. I tried to put our points across at the meeting, but the council totally ignored me. They skated around the main six-points issue by discussing trivial things we weren't even interested in - it's clear that they just don't want to know."

But a spokesperson for the district council said the change in licensing laws had been misinterpreted by St Albans taxi drivers: She explained: "The policy clearly states that where an applicant has six or more penalty points on their driving licence, the officer will usually consider granting the licence with a written warning. Only if a driver has 12 or more penalty points will they be liable for disqualification under the 'totting up' procedures at court."

The spokesperson added that the taxi association had been invited to submit a further application for a fare increase and the licensing committee was sympathetic about the rising cost of fuel.

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