The number of registered taxi drivers in the borough has risen from 2,400 to 1,300, according to preliminary figures shown in Sandwell Council’s Taxi Licensing Services Improvement Plan.
Sandwell taxi drivers have spent months campaigning for the council to cut fees and red tape, arguing that they pay more than drivers in neighboring councils and are locked out of the trade.
They claim they are being asked to pay up to £399 for a year’s taxi plate, almost twice as much as in Birmingham.
They also complained about garage appointments, delays in issuing private hire licenses and a lack of support.
The plan, presented to councilors at Sandwell Council’s licensing committee this week, raised concerns that a number of drivers had decided not to work in the area anymore.
He said: “A reduction has been seen among licensees. This could be attributed to a number of factors, although the reasons for non-renewal are not captured in the system to provide meaningful analysis. »
The improvement plan comes after a summer of protests – including one dating back to August last year – where Sandwell taxi drivers marched from West Bromwich town center to council headquarters.
A variety of issues identified by taxi drivers have been addressed by the council, such as more garages in the borough to use for inspections and dual licenses for private hire and carriages.
Imran Qureshi, secretary of the Sandwell Private Hire Drivers Association, said he welcomed the changes but was still concerned about the fees.
“Our concerns go beyond what they gave us, what they listened to, what they plan to do.
“Our biggest issue continues to be license fees. They feel even higher compared to other boroughs. I think they need to adjust their policy to entice more taxi drivers to come to Sandwell.
“We are going to move forward on this file, but it is completely satisfactory. It’s better than nothing.”
Councilor Laura Rollins, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Tourism at Sandwell Council, said: ‘Private taxi and hire drivers provide a vital service for those who need to travel across Sandwell, including for some of our most vulnerable residents.
“In response to issues raised by the taxi industry, we have agreed on a comprehensive plan to deliver a number of improvements to our taxi licensing service in December 2021. Since then we have implemented changes which deal with sixteen of the twenty-four problems identified.
“The Licensing Committee has given careful consideration to the remaining issues, including proposals to increase the number of garages approved to carry out security checks and changes to medical checks. The Borough Economics Director and I will make a decision based on the committee’s recommendations and the need to ensure passenger safety.
“I am committed to continuing to improve our taxi licensing service while ensuring consistent safety standards for taxi and private hire passengers.”