'We're not asking for millions or being greedy': Wakefield taxi drivers plead for more financial support

Taxi drivers in Wakefield have pleaded for more financial support to help them through the rest of lockdown.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 12:30 pm

They say they are missing out on cash being given to drivers in other parts of the country, because of the way Wakefield Council has administered government grants.

One union said that some taxi drivers were struggling to make ends meet.

The council said it was looking at ways to offer drivers more support.

Drivers have been unable to work for most of the pandemic.

Drivers say that cash they've had from the grant scheme for self-employed people has only covered their overheads, such as car insurance and road tax, and not their cost of living.

They claim they've missed out on cash handed out to other industries because most cabbies don't have a business premises, like hairdressers, pubs and coffee shops.

Wakefield Drivers Association (WDA) spokesman Wajid Ali said: "We’re not asking for millions or being greedy.

"We’re just asking for the money that the government has paid councils to pass on.

Drivers say they need more help to cover their living costs.

"There’s no point the council holding onto the money because what they don't pay out will have to be paid back to the government.

"Why not give it to the poor chaps who need this money to survive?

"We’re still not working. We’ve been unable to trade because the pubs are closed and the clubs are closed. The hospitality industry is closed. We can’t pick people up from hotels and restaurants.

"We are part of that supply chain and it’s not going to get better anytime soon."

Wajid Ali, spokesman for the WDA said drivers "weren't being greedy" by asking for more support.

The council has deferred licence renewal fees for cabbies during the pandemic, but the WDA said that that cash will still have to be paid eventually.

Cabbies have pointed to support offered to the industry in South Yorkshire and in York as examples to follow.

In those places, the council is handing out monthly lump sums to drivers on top of the self-employed grants.

The Wakefield District Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Association, which also represents drivers, called for more help to be given.

Chairman Abdul Rehman said: "During the pandemic, we have made two requests to the council for grants to be paid to taxi drivers.

"We are grateful to the licensing team for their assistance and hope to be notified of the council’s decision in relation to our second request in the near future.

"Because taxi drivers work in vehicles and not from premises, they have not been able to access the grants paid to most other businesses.

"We hope that Wakefield Council will now follow the approach of many other councils and provide a one-off grant to all Wakefield Council licensed taxi drivers.

"In these very difficult times, any assistance is better than nothing."

In response, the council's interim service director for economic growth, Jane Brown, said: "Taxi drivers in Wakefield are receiving 80 per cent of their wage through the Self Employed Income Support Scheme.

"This and the furlough scheme has been an important tool to help many businesses and individuals across our district.

"For businesses and individuals who are unable to access funding during the recent pandemic local authorities were allocated discretionary funds in which to support those most in need.

"Taxi drivers who are unable to have their salary funded through the Self Employed Income Support Scheme were able to access the Area Restriction Grant prior to its closure on March 2, 2021.

“The council is currently considering alternative ways to support taxi drivers during this difficult time.”

Local Democracy Reporting Service