Three cabbies die from covid and trade pleads with council for support

Posted On 31 Jan 2021 at 11:47 pm

Three cabbies in Brighton and Hove have died from the coronavirus, it emerged this evening (Sunday 31 January) as the trade issued an urgent plea for support.

Others have tested positive for covid-19 as the trade also suffers from a catastrophic loss of business over the past year.

The Brighton and Hove Taxi Trade Forum Association called for an urgent “extraordinary trade forum meeting” to be arranged as soon as possible with Brighton and Hove City Council.

The taxi trade – including private hire drivers – want the council to provide financial help in the way that a number of other councils have.

Taxi trade rep Andrew Peters wrote the council and said: “This last year the local trade has faced a catastrophic downfall of customers and most of the licensed drivers and proprietors are only just able to hang on.

“Some may have taken advantage of finance holidays for vehicle loans but this was only for a limited period.

“Conversely, some have had to suffer the indignity of visiting a food bank in order to keep food on their table for their family.

“Along with the main points that must be addressed, the state of the mental health and psychological welfare of the drivers and proprietors cannot be underestimated or overstated.

“It is also vitally important to fully record the plight of the Brighton and Hove licensed drivers and proprietors so it is fully recognised by the council in their role as the licensing authority.

“Sadly, I also have to provide an update that three Brighton and Hove licensed drivers have now died due to the virus with a number of others currently suffering from it having tested positive.

“Sadly, many of these did not have the luxury of the choice of whether to work or not, even withstanding the risks.”

A petition has been set up calling for financial help and Mr Peters said: “We are very aware that individuals in the trade have contacted the council on this specific matter and well done to all of those that have.

“The Trade Forum as a collective and acting for the 1,200+ drivers/proprietors now wish to inform you that an online petition is now in place setting out where other licensing authorities have provided financial support to their local trade in recognising the plight that drivers/proprietors are currently suffering.

“The petition can be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/cab-covid19.

“It is respectfully pointed out that other licensing areas have also provided funding for the installation of protective screens for saloon cars.”

Cabbies in Bury, for example, receive £677 a month, all drivers in Wales were eligible for £4,000 and in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole the figure was £2,500.

Mr Peters said: “In 2020 when the council were given funding from the government to assist local businesses, the local cab trade sought financial help to install vehicle partition screens at an average cost of £300 per installation.

“The trade were told by the council that money provided by government did not cover any provision for such a grant and wrote to the government seeking permission to use funding that was left over to provide financial assistance for the screens. We were told that there was no response.

“Over the last few months, a considerable number of licensing authorities have provided various amounts of funding to their respective local cab drivers/proprietors without any issues as shown and the Brighton and Hove taxi/private hire trade is seeking support to petition council to do the same here.

“In signing this petition you will be supporting the 1,200-plus individual locally licensed Brighton and Hove licensed taxi/private hire drivers/proprietors.”

Andrew Peters

Mr Peters added: “Last year the trade were given such an extension for hackney carriages for six months up to September 2020 which was then extended until March this year.

“This allowed the proprietor of a hackney carriage vehicle to either take the vehicle off the road or to run it as a personal private vehicle without a council ‘compliance test’ (subject to an MoT certificate being in place) without it being officially licensed subject to the licence fee being paid to reserve the right to hold and operate a hackney carriage vehicle. This now needs to be extended again.

“We have been alerted to and wish in turn to alert the council to the situation where hackney carriage ‘wheelchair accessible vehicle’ (WAV) proprietors have now found themselves in a severe financial predicament where these vehicles need to be replaced under ‘wear and tear’.

“This is where these WAVs would not be considered economically viable to re-license as these are now coming to the ‘end of life’ for commercial use.

“The cost of replacement WAVs is considerably higher than that of standard saloon vehicles.

“Under the circumstances where the trade would be operating normally, the financial commitment would not be an issue.

“However, where these WAV proprietors are restricted to the type of vehicles they can bring on, the state of despair about their future in the trade cannot be underestimated.”

Brighton and Hove taxis protest in Lewes

And he highlighted the influx of drivers from other areas who are licensed by councils operating less stringent regimes than Brighton and Hove.

Mr Peters said: “Over the last three years the local trade has been flooded with what we call ‘out of town’ private hire cars from Southampton, Portsmouth, Chichester, Havant, Fareham, to name but a few of the areas, but mostly from Lewes.

“It is considered that most of the 500-plus fleet of Lewes private hire cars predominantly work in Brighton and Hove where they operate without any direct control under Lewes District Council licensing and without the need to comply with the Brighton and Hove ‘Blue Book of Licensing Conditions’.”

He said that the Lewes licensing department “made a terrible mistake in allowing and indeed supporting the use of magnetic rear and door licence plates”.

And, he said, there had been more than 100 reports of these being missing from Lewes District Council licensed vehicles to the Lewes licensing department, with photographic evidence over the last year alone.

Fewer commuters using Brighton Station has hurt the taxi trade – Picture by Daniel Moon

Mr Peters said: “These missing plates do not allow for the identification of these vehicles, erode local licensing control and directly endanger the safety of the local travelling public in Brighton and Hove and beyond.

“This has demonstrated the blasé attitude of drivers predominantly working here who are not locally licensed (by Brighton and Hove City Council) and it has been very unfortunate that Lewes licensing has been extremely slow to remedy the use of magnetic plates that can be easily removed and misused.

“The local taxi and private hire trade has had no choice but to act as observers with low morale while these vehicles operate in the city beyond the control of Brighton and Hove City Council.

“While fair and equal competition is always good, this has not been the case and there has been a massive consequential financial loss in trade to the locally licensed drivers.”

He implored the council to call an extraordinary meeting “to act with urgency and without delay”.

  1. bradly23 Reply

    indeed, this council would rather build silly recreational bike lanes than help working people lead vital lives.

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