Councillors reject scrapping ‘six point ban’ for taxi drivers as Wakefield cabbies stage Town Hall protest

Wakefield Council has voted against proposals to amend its taxi driver suitability policy amid protests from the city’s cabbies.

By Tony Gardner
Thursday, 21st July 2022, 4:28 pm

Emotions ran high both inside and outside the Council chamber as drivers held a demonstration ahead of a meeting to discuss making changes to “unfair” taxi licensing regulations.

It is the second time this year that members of the Wakefield Drivers Association (WDA) have picketed the Town Hall over the issue.

The WDA want the local authority to scrap the so-called ‘six point ban’ and relax other rules, including extending the life of taxi vehicles, as they struggle during the cost of living crisis.

Wakefield Driving Association members held a protest outside Wakefield Town Hall.

Currently, taxi drivers who rack up more than six points on their licence in three years face lengthy bans from the trade.

A motion to make policy changes was put to a full council meeting by Conservative councillor Nadeem Ahmed

It was rejected after the majority of Labour group members voted against it, accusing the Tories of “playing politics” with public safety.

Earlier, three councillors attended the demonstration and spoke in support of the taxi drivers.

Taxi drivers held a protest outside Wakefield Town Hall

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Nadiah Sharp, newly-elected Labour councillor for Wrenthorpe and Outwood West, told the protesters: “This isn’t about working conditions. This isn’t about pay.

“This isn’t about changing terms and conditions within our working rights.

“This is about parity, equality, social justice.

Wakefield Council has voted against proposals to amend its taxi driver suitability policy amid protests from the city’s cabbies.

“We are the Labour Party. Labour means to work. We stand by the workers.

“That includes taxi drivers, bus drivers, train drivers.

“What is inflicted against the taxi drivers has a knock-on effect on the residents.

“I have elderly residents that are reporting that they can’t get a taxi for an hour. Mums that can’t get their kids picked up from school.”

Coun Sharp told the drivers: “You are valid, you are needed, you are valued.

“You are the bedrock of the Wakefield community and I stand with you.

Akef Akbar, Independent councillor for Wakefield East, said : “The bus drivers have recently held strikes that have lasted weeks on end, bringing the city to a standstill.

“You, the taxi drivers, have kept this city running.

“We saw councillors of all parties attending at the picket line with the bus drivers for photo opportunities.

“Where are they for the taxi drivers?”

“We need to push our elected members and show them that the private hire drivers matter.

“We can’t just brush it under the carpet and ignore the problems of our taxi drivers.”

Coun Ahmed, Tory councillor for Wakefield South, also addressed the protesters, saying: “All we are asking for is fairness.

“It is not a political issue. It is a matter of common sense.

“The costs are unbearable for people. You are trying to make a living for your families.”

As the issue was being debated at County Hall, Wakefield Mayor David Jones briefly adjourned the meeting as Coun Ahmed was speaking.

As the meeting resumed, Coun Jones said: “Councillor Ahmed, I appreciate your emotions on this subject and I appreciate you wish to give over your argument.

“But I would also appreciate it if you respect the rules that govern the way in which this council meeting is conducted.”

Michelle Collins, Labour councillor for South Elmsall and South Kirkby, told the meeting: “We have listened to the issues highlighted by the private hire and taxi trade.

“We have taken positive action to address those concerns.

“However, there is a process for considering such matters.”

Coun Collins said many of the issues raised are due to be considered at a licensing committee meeting next week.

She added: “It is important that licensing policy, conditions, good practice and procedures are considered in a proper way.

“As a council, it is right and proper that you balance the need of the trade with the safety of residents.

“Public safety should be at the centre of any licensing policy and it would not be right for this council to bypass those safeguards with this motion.

“This motion is designed to stoke nothing but hate and division between communities and the Labour group will not be part of that.

“We will not undermine the process in place to deal with such issues.

“Unlike the Tories opposite, we will not play politics with public safety.”

Knottingley Liberal Democrat Councillor Pete Girt supported the motion, saying: “When I was a bus driver I got six points on my licence.

“I wasn’t a bad driver. I just took my eye off the speedo for a couple of seconds.

“I didn’t have my licence taken off me.

“Why should these guys have their licenses taken from them?

“I support this motion. It is common sense. Let’s just use a bit.”