A cabbie who made racist and intimidating remarks to a passenger before threatening to throw her out of his car has lost his licence.
According to the Birmingham Mail, the unnamed man’s disqualification came after Sandwell's licensing committee said his behaviour showed he wasn’t ‘a fit and proper person’ to hold a dual private hire and Hackney Carriage permit.
Minutes of its November meeting show the passenger had alleged the driver had been intimidating and made racial comments during a pre-booked journey.
She also claimed at one point he said he threatened to drop her off in an area she didn’t know.
Refusing to continue, he returned the woman to her home address despite being advised by his taxi base to continue to his destination.
Appearing at the review meeting the driver, who was referred to as Mr ‘ P’, admitted he’d made racist comments but said they were about passengers in general and were not aimed at the woman.
He explained he’d been waiting for the passenger for five minutes who he claimed displayed inappropriate behaviour, including unsuitable language and encouraged him to break the speed limit during the journey.
Revoking his permit, councillors said they saw no reasons to ignore established guidelines and said he was not a fit and proper person to hold a licence in Sandwell.
They added, as a professional driver for over 10 years, he had: “Displayed discriminatory behaviour towards a passenger and his interview with a Taxi Licensing Enforcement officer corresponded with the passenger’s witness statement.”
Mr ‘P’ was advised of his right to appeal to a magistrates court.
A woman who bit a private hire driver twice in a racist attack has been spared jail after she claimed to have PTSD.
Metro reports that Rebekha D’Stephano, 43, said she was suffering from the effects of her puppy being mauled to death by another dog when she attacked Jahangir Alam and called him a ‘P**i b*****d’ in a row over a fare.
She also punched him, and smashed his windscreen and rear-view mirror as she refused to pay when he dropped her off at her home in Swinton, near Salford, shortly after midnight on February 16 last year.
When police arrived, D’Stephano, who had been out drinking with friends, was having an argument with a different cabbie about her son.
She was told she faced a jail sentence for racially aggravated criminal damage and ABH. However, she told the court that she was receiving counselling for the attack on her dog.
Prosecutor Mr Zak Azim said D’Stephano had seven previous offences including a similar assault and criminal damage offence in 2009.
Defending her, lawyer Elizabeth Ridgeway said: ‘Her last offence was 10 years ago so it is clear she can keep her life in order when things are going well and there are times where she struggles to deal with life.
"She accepts what she has done and would like to apologise. She accepts she has crossed the custodial threshold and is not coping."
D’Stephano was sentenced to 26 weeks jail suspended for 12 months and she was also ordered to pay £700 compensation to the taxi driver.
Chairman of the bench Julian Fisher told her: "This is a serious case where you caused injuries to the victim and stopped the taxi driver from working. We are going to impose a suspended sentence, but you could have gone down for this."
A Cowdenbeath cabbie has thanked the NHS after a routine eye appointment saved his life.
According to the Central Fife Times, David Buckle decided to go to for an eye test after he had been having problems reading the paper.
He was stunned to discover days after that he was suffering from a massive brain tumour which saw him undergoing a massive 18-hour operation to get removed.
"I was sitting in the taxi rank at Cowdenbeath and I was having problems with reading the newspaper so I thought I had better go for reading glasses – I am 63 so thought that was about normal," he told the Times.
"I went in for an eye test and everything was fine. They said I needed reading glasses so I got that taken care of and I was sitting in the taxi rank the next day and the optician tapped at my window. She said I needed to go to hospital."
After undergoing CT scans and an MRI scan at the Victoria Hospital, David was then referred to see a specialist in Edinburgh.
"The neurosurgeon sat me down and said you have got a brain tumour," said David. "It is a big one and in the worst possible place it could be – it was up with the pituitary gland and the optic nerve.
"They said we are going to have to get you in. I said I didn't think people were getting into the hospital with Covid but he said no matter what, we are getting you in.
"I was in 18 hours in the operating theatre. He said it was a record."
After a week in hospital, David was back in his home where he is now recovering well although he is unable to return to work.
"I am doing fine," he said. "It just shows it pays to get an eye test. They picked it up and said I had to go to hospital.
"The NHS is unbelievable how they got things moving so quickly. It has been all go right from the start and the opticians were fantastic, they were unbelievable. They have saved my life. I am so thankful."
Four of England’s major local authorities and city-regions have united to ask government for an urgent meeting, following concerns from the taxi and private hire trade that the impacts of the pandemic combined with current government policy may threaten livelihoods and the sector as a whole.
A letter to the Secretary of State for Transport, copied to the government’s Joint Air Quality Unit, calls for an immediate review of government policies – and adequate funding to ensure there is enough support for the trade.
Concerns are raised that current policy may significantly reduce convenient and wheelchair accessible hackney carriage provision, in a sector that forms a key part of the transport network and lifeline for many, including people with mobility issues.
Local authorities and city-regions in Greater Manchester, Birmingham, Portsmouth and Sheffield have all been directed by government to introduce Clean Air Zones (CAZ) to tackle nitrogen dioxide levels on local roads – affecting taxis and private hire vehicles that don’t meet emissions standards.
The local authorities all support the case for better air quality and are driving forward region-specific plans. They are also urging government to ensure funding levels support drivers and operators to move to the more expensive lower-emission vehicles required for hackney cab services in Clean Air Zone areas.
There is also a renewed call to close the legal loophole that jeopardises passenger safety by allowing private hire vehicle drivers and vehicle owners to dodge more stringent local driver and vehicle regulations by being licensed anywhere in the country.
Greater Manchester recently carried out two major consultations on proposals for a Clean Air Zone, and Minimum Licensing Standards for taxis and private hire, and the responses are currently being analysed by an independent organisation.
A Greater Manchester-wide Clean Air Zone – the largest in the UK outside London – is expected to be introduced in spring 2022 to tackle air pollution on local roads.
Andy Burnham, Greater Manchester Mayor, said: “The pandemic has hit the taxi and private hire trades hard and they have told us that Covid-19 – alongside government policies – poses a very real threat to the future of the industry. And when you factor in the potential costs of upgrading to Clean Air Zone vehicle standards, and the competition from out-of-town private hire services, there’s an even bigger impact on thousands of drivers who have families to support in what has been an incredibly tough year.
“Of course we are absolutely committed to improving air quality, reducing carbon emissions and improving standards for our locally licensed fleets. We’re taking action locally, but we need the government to come to the table and discuss ways it can properly support the sector. We need the right regulatory tools and funding to support the trade to move to cleaner, more accessible vehicles, and protect customers by making sure local private hire is regulated locally.”
Cllr Waseem Zaffar, Cabinet Member for Transport and Environment at Birmingham City Council, said: “Birmingham's hackney carriage and private hire community provide an invaluable service to the people who live, work and visit our city.
“We have already put schemes in place to help this community prepare for the Clean Air Zone and that recognises the financial challenges brought about by the pandemic. But this is not just a challenge that local authorities must shoulder, which is why we are adding our voice to this call for national action.”
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Leader of Portsmouth City Council, said: “Many industries have been impacted by the pandemic but for the taxi industry, inadequate national government policies are threatening their livelihoods. Not to mention the inadequate funding that is being provided to help them make their vehicles less polluting so they are not charged to travel in the government-imposed Clean Air Zone that we must launch before the end of the year.
“The pressure on the taxi industry is relentless and I, along with other local authorities want the opportunity to discuss this with government during one of the toughest years we have experienced.”
Cllr Robert Johnson, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “We’re asking the Secretary of State to understand the pressures taxi and private hire fleets are under and show fairness after a difficult 12 months. Closing the loophole that allows for private hire drivers to work out of their licensed authority would be a major step towards a level playing field, along with additional support to help drivers move to cleaner, more efficient vehicles.
“We know that drivers are facing an important choice with their next taxi: stick with a cheaper-to-buy but polluting fossil fuel, or invest in an electric. Despite being cheaper to run and emitting less carbon, there’s only a small number of electric Hackney vehicles on the market and they’re expensive to buy. It’s important that JAQU understand these issues, but also recognises this is an opportunity to move to a cleaner fleet if the right policy is implemented and the right support is available. We want cleaner air, and the way forward is through investment, and we don’t want to leave drivers in a position where they pay to pollute.
“Sheffield is proud of having a 100% accessible fleet of hackney carriages. They’re key to ensuring children with special educational needs have transport to school. Because of the closed cab design, they’re much more Covid-secure than a regular car and they’ve been used to get vulnerable patients to hospitals and to vaccinations, when other transport wouldn’t be suitable.”
In many urban areas, hackney vehicles have been licensed to a higher standard than private hire, typically requiring them to operate wheelchair accessible, ‘London-style’ black cabs. Up until now this has given drivers and owners a predictable business model, and the general public access to a versatile and accessible fleet.
Under government Clean Air Zone vehicle guidance, hackney drives face a big capital outlay to upgrade vehicles, while the private hire trade will also be directly competing for a similar customer market.
However, it’s currently effectively impossible for local authorities to require wheelchair accessible vehicles across the local private hire fleet. Anyone who chooses not to, can simply seek a driver and vehicle licence anywhere in the country and continue to serve the local market using a standard saloon car.
The hackney trade has been seeing reduced customer demand for some time, with competition from new app-based private hire business models. Both the taxi and private hire sectors report being hugely impacted by the economic consequences of Covid-19.
Local authorities have asked for a meeting with the Secretary of State and government officials at the earliest opportunity.
Controversial plans to lift a cap on the number of cab licences issued in Bournemouth and Poole have passed the final hurdle.
The Bournemouth Echo reports that BCP Council approved new taxi policies on Tuesday 23 February, despite concerns about the effect they will have on the viability of the profession.
An attempt had been made by some opposition councillors to delay the decision with calls for more information to be provided, but this was defeated.
The policies, which were unanimously approved by the council's licensing committee earlier this month, set out the requirements for taxi drivers operating across Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole.
They include a new white colour scheme and a vehicle age limit.
But the most controversial element is deregulation in Bournemouth and Poole. No limit is in place in Christchurch.
The council said this would open up the profession with the council having a waiting list of more than 300 people.
The change is planned to be done over five years with annual increases in numbers to ease the transition.
However, taxi drivers have criticised the move saying it will impact their livelihoods. The previous Saturday, hundreds had gathered in Bournemouth to protest it.
“This decision will impact on the travelling public and on the livelihoods of the many taxi and private hire companies,” Kevin Diffey, the chairman of PRC Streamline Taxis said. “We are horrified at the proposals and frankly scared of the effect it will have on our companies.”
And Paul Sondheim, the treasurer for Bournemouth Station Taxi Association, called on the council to defer the decision due to be made at its full council meeting.
Councillor Vikki Slade proposed the vote be postponed so more information could be provided but her suggestion was defeated in a vote. It was instead agreed to adopt the policies that had been approved by the licensing committee.
Committee chairman councillor Judy Butt, cited the example of one person who had been on the waiting list for a licence in Bournemouth since 1993.
She said taxi drivers “understandably wanted to maintain the status quo” but said the restrictions were preventing people who wanted to move into the industry.
Concerns had also been raised the dress code could discriminate against people wearing certain religious clothing but Cllr Butt said exceptions could be made in certain circumstances.
Having been approved for adoption, the new policies will come into force in April.