Around 25 taxi drivers slowed down traffic in Guildford town centre in protest at a reduction in fares.
According to Get Surrey, the protest began at 10am on Tuesday March 27 and lasted for an hour, with HC drivers clogging up the one-way system.
David Williams-Wynn, chairman of the Guildford Hackney Association (GHA), said: “We’re hoping to stay out here to mess the traffic up for about an hour. Then if we don’t hear anything from the council we’ll do it tomorrow, and we’ll keep on doing it.”
Guildford Borough Council reduced meter rates for hackney carriages by 16 per cent in December 2017 after Guildford’s taxi drivers lost a High Court challenge to the council’s decision.
At the time, Mark Rostron, secretary of the GHA, predicted a “miserable Christmas” that could bankrupt taxi drivers “trying to earn a living at £1.70 per mile for anything more than a two-mile journey.”
A spokesman for Guildford Borough Council said: “Whilst we understand that any reduction in fares is a cause for much concern from the taxi trade, the High Court found completely in the council’s favour after considering the case and hearing arguments from the taxi trade.
“The council has a set formula for calculating taxi fares based upon salary, running costs and average mileage, which ensures that the public are charged fairly for the service.
“Despite the reduced fares only being implemented at the end of December 2017, the council is currently reviewing taxi fares for 2018 - which included consulting with over 200 members of the taxi trade on the data used but received only ten responses with no supporting evidence.
“It is therefore disappointing that the taxi trade is considering this action, rather than engaging positively during our consultation.”
Following the protest Guildford’s taxi drivers are now being investigated by the council.
An email sent out by the council on March 28 said: “Whilst we acknowledge your right to protest peacefully, we would like to advise you that yesterday’s events will be investigated to determine whether any offences were committed.”
The email went on to say the drivers’ actions could be considered to have caused an unnecessary obstruction, which would be a breach of the law.
It added: “Where appropriate we will liaise with police colleagues to identify and deal with any offences that may have been committed. As part of any investigation the council will consider if conduct of this nature is compatible with the ‘fit and proper’ requirements of the LGMP Act 1976. Disciplinary action may be taken against drivers, which may include the suspension or revocation of drivers’ licences.”
A council spokesman added: “As this is an ongoing investigation we cannot comment any further on the details.”
Mmmm…Hang on a minute – the trade is entitled to stage a peaceful protest, as has happened ac-ross dozens of licensing areas over the past three decades or more. So why all of a sudden is this council threatening suspensions and revocations for a simple drive-round? Were there complaints from the general public about noise or a real (as opposed to “could be considered to have caused unnecessary”) obstruction? Did the police know in advance, by way of formal notification? Just the facts, Ma’am… Ed.