Kirklees TAXI drivers have slammed as ‘pure racism’ a council safety policy which could see licenses revoked if drivers rack up more than six penalty points in a year.
They say that the authority’s policy of aptitude and beliefs is unjust and akin to “apartheid”.
However, Kirklees Council says it is not changing its suitability and suitability policy, which was passed in 2019 and already meets the minimum standards set by the Department for Transport (DfT).
Kirklees Council says the overriding objective of licensing services is “the safety of the traveling public”.
It states that a licensee must be “a fit and proper person” and that judgment is made after a detailed examination of their character as a whole to determine their suitability and suitability.
If an applicant cannot satisfy the authority that he is a fit and suitable person, the legislation states that a license should not be granted.
The policy is based on standards developed by the DfT, which say taxis and private hire vehicles represent “a high-risk environment”.
This guidance states: “In terms of risks to passengers, this is seen in the abuse and exploitation of children and vulnerable adults facilitated and, in some cases, perpetrated by the trade and the number of sexual crimes that involve drivers taxi and private hire. ”
But taxi trade activists say the borough’s drivers, the majority of whom are Asian, are “stereotyped as sexual predators”.
Spokesman Akooji Badat said the policy was linked to cases of child sexual exploitation in Rotherham and Rochdale where girls were picked up from school gates and taken in taxis to be abused.
Some of the men who carried out the attacks were taxi drivers.
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In an impassioned address to Kirklees Council’s Licensing and Safety Committee (March 2) at Huddersfield Town Hall, he said: ‘It all comes down to Rochdale and Rotherham and what happened spent there. Are we tarnished for it?
“Why do you just stereotype taxi drivers as if they’re some kind of sexual predator? What happened in Rochdale and Rotherham has nothing to do with us.
Drivers have already gone on strike in Leeds over a similar ‘draconian’ policy and there have been rumors that similar industrial action could take place in Kirklees.
Fellow campaigner Hasan Badat said he had urged the council to “get to the heart of the matter”, which had been dragging on for “decades”. He said taxi drivers were “shouting” to be heard.
He said: “We don’t want them protesting in an ideal world or taking legal action, but people are getting wise and starting to consider their options.”
He said the policy proposal “defies belief”.
He added: “The fact that you are going to lose your bread and butter if you get more than six points is absolutely ridiculous not to mention racist given that the majority of taxi drivers come from a particular community.
“Whether you call it indirect racism or institutional racism, I’ll leave that up to others. But that’s just not the case, especially when compared to drivers in other trades.
Campaigners say bus drivers or people working within the emergency services are not governed by the same policy.
Hasan Badat called for face-to-face meetings with drivers “in a community setting” that would replace questionnaires and online consultation exercises.
Licensing staff admitted that turnout had been ‘relatively low’ and that a consultation period had been extended twice so that ‘significant’ changes that would ‘impact trade’ could be considered.
Committee chair Clr Amanda Pinnock said she was ready to meet with the drivers to hear their concerns.