Crawley taxi drivers’ concerns over new regulations

jpco 28-1-15 Taxi Rank in The Boulevard, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150127-100841001
jpco 28-1-15 Taxi Rank in The Boulevard, Crawley (Pic by Jon Rigby) SUS-150127-100841001
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More than 40 Crawley taxi drivers attended a council meeting to raise concerns over new regulations last Wednesday.

Crawley Borough Council’s Cabinet approved a Private Hire and Hackney Carriage Licensing Policy, but only after making several key amendments in response to several points raised by the trade.

Amin Mirza, chairman of the Crawley Hackney Carriages Association, (right) with Brian Quinn, Labour Crawley borough councillor earlier this year. Mr Mirza spoke at last week's Cabinet meeting

Amin Mirza, chairman of the Crawley Hackney Carriages Association, (right) with Brian Quinn, Labour Crawley borough councillor earlier this year. Mr Mirza spoke at last week's Cabinet meeting

Concerns centred over plans to introduce an age restriction for licensed vehicles and a preference for side-loading instead of rear-loading vans and cars.

Amin Mirza, chairman of the Crawley Hackney Carriage Association, said that drivers were already under a lot of financial stress as the industry had suffered a reduction in business since the economic crash.

After the meeting secretary of the association Yemi Adams thanked both the Licensing Committee and the Cabinet for putting together the policy and listening to their concerns, but he also called for more enforcement on the high street.

Peter Lamb (Lab, Northgate), leader at Crawley Borough Council (CBC), told the meeting that as the regulatory authority there was a balance to be struck between the cost for drivers and ensuring customers were in safe vehicles.

He also mentioned the need to control emissions from older vehicles, but said they would include some flexibility and discretion in applying the policy.

He added: “It’s an evolving document and it will change in the long run.”

Chris Mullins (Lab, Gossops Green), CBC’s cabinet member for wellbeing, added: “What we want to do is work with the trade. We are not your enemies but what we have to do is look after our communities as well. We need to have environmentally friendly vehicles.

“This [the policy] is not set in stone. If we have problems we can revisit it.”

Brenda Smith (Lab, Langley Green), who is currently using a wheelchair following an injury, said she could ‘see no reason why the back loaders should be taken away other than they will not be licensed’, and described being helped into a taxi as ‘quite an alarming experience unless they [the driver] know what they are doing’.

Officers said that they could introduce flexibility to permit the continued use of rear-loading vehicles as long as they met certain safety standards.

However several people continued to voice dissent. One driver told Mr Lamb: “I think you are being unfair on this.”

Mr Lamb replied: “We will have to disagree on that.”

Michael Jones (Lab, Bewbush), cabinet member for public protection and community engagement, said: “We are the organisation that has to regulate the trade and we have to balance the interests of everybody in the borough.”

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