Taxi drivers

New plans as Basildon faces shortage of taxi drivers

A ‘SEVERE shortage’ of taxi drivers in Basildon is putting night revelers at risk and isolating some of the borough’s most vulnerable residents, it is claimed.

The borough is facing a shortage of licensed drivers according to council documents, with many workers dropping out of the trade during the pandemic and fewer recruits signing up.

Basildon Council are considering ambitious plans to increase these numbers, with plans underway for a pilot program that will see trainees earn as they learn on the job.

“When the pandemic started, many drivers, who were all self-employed, were not earning money,” said Basildon Borough Hackney Carriage Association secretary Keith Beadle.

“You’d be lucky to make £30 for a 12-14 hour day, and that was before you paid for fuel and car hire.”

“The drivers had families they had to support, and they just couldn’t survive the way they were, so they all found jobs elsewhere and now we have a severe shortage of drivers.”

He added: “And that’s not to mention the recent increase in fuel costs, which has made it even more difficult for drivers.”

The council says it recognizes that Basildon has an “aging workforce of licensed drivers, with a significant proportion nearing retirement”.

Bosses agreed to raise taxi fares in the borough earlier this year.

A 40p increase in the initial fee brought the total to £3.20, while a new midnight fee of £1 was also introduced.

Next week, councilors will vote on proposals to introduce an “earn as you learn” license, giving trainees nine months to learn on the job.

Previously, drivers had to take a six-month course, during which they could not work.

A similar approach was taken by Rochford Council in January.

Nethermayne councilor Kerry Smith said it was vital more taxi drivers were trained to provide door-to-door transport for isolated and disabled people and ensure people could return home safely late in the night.

“For young women after a night out, maybe she had a few drinks, the safest way to get home is with a borough-registered taxi,” he said.

“Or for an old friend who cannot walk and needs to move around, these services are vital for him.

“We need to support our taxi drivers and keep them going.”