Council moves to clampdown on poor standards: Rossendale Council has 2,523 taxis licensed in the town, but only a small number of these work in the area.
Three hundred taxi drivers blocked the road outside Rossendale council offices in protest against new proposals to reform taxi regulations in the town.
The industrial action took place on Monday, August 1, at Rossendale Borough Council (RBC) offices at Futures Park in Bacup. The protest was sparked after Rossendale’s licensing committee approved a nine-week consultation into 16 new additions to current taxi policy, which they hope will crack down on the number of cabs operating outside the borough.
Following the protest on Monday, Rossendale Council said they have ‘successfully resolved some issues’ and have set up a workshop meeting with representatives from the trade to discuss the consultation in more detail.
David Lawrie chairman of the Rossendale Taxi Association, said: “We explained quite a few of our issues and explained to them what our immediate problems were.
“But what they’ve done is thrown the Rossendale trade to the wolves, without speaking to the trade first. Fundamentally these proposals will have a more negative impact on the local drivers.”
Council staff said they had to liaise with the police as the strike was initially blocking road access for all customers and staff to the car park.
Glen Bulcock, fellow member and former chairman of the association, said the reason for the changes is the borough’s “image problem” over taxis. They want to cull what they have created – the number of taxis – because of the image problem.
“We understand that attitude but it’s not fair that they have taken all this money over the years, and now they are turning on the local trade with these proposals which will make it very difficult to run a business. It will hit us very hard. People can’t afford to enact all these changes.”
Coun Steve Hughes, licensing committee chairman, said: “The dispute was resolved quickly. We have a date in the diary where we can meet more formally at the workshop event so their voices are heard in this licensing consultation.”
He added that it was a “shame” that the trade had decided to take the course of action without formally engaging in the process, and that it was “disappointing” that the council found out about the action through the press.
Outlined in a review of the existing taxi policy at last month’s licensing committee, mandatory proposals included the use of CCTV cameras as a deterrent against crime.
The council report states: “It may act as a deterrent and would be used to protect the driver from attacks and making off without payment.”
A reduction in vehicle age from the current standard of seven years, and reducing cab emissions in line with European tech criteria is also being consulted on. This could mean new vehicles would have to be less than two years old to be licensed.
A ‘uniform livery’ for hackneys is being considered to distinguish from private hire vehicles and to allow customers to identify and assist in ‘enforcement’ of taxis operating outside the borough.
There are plans to introduce a ‘locality knowledge test’, a review of guidelines to convictions and a code of good conduct. A new DBS update service, and reduction of tinted windows – as well as the possibility of all vehicles becoming wheelchair accessible are also being consulted on.
The number of hackney cabs licensed by the council now stands at 2,523, the equivalent of one per 27 residents. These vehicles, around 95 per cent don’t even work in the Rossendale area, instead working for private hire operators across the UK, hundreds of miles out of the reach of the council.
Rossendale has seen taxi licenses increase from around 80 to over 2,500 thanks to the lack of strict licensing conditions applied in other areas of the country. To avoid these strict rules which can include vehicle age restrictions, drivers target Rossendale for their low standards and licence as a hackney driver – taxi.
Once licensed those drivers and vehicles are never seen in the town again for twelve months until it is time to renew their vehicle licenses or to have a vehicle inspection.