Taxi drivers

Sandwell taxi drivers will stage a four-mile slow protest

Sandwell taxi drivers will converge in their vehicles from West Bromwich to Tipton on Wednesday and stage a major protest against the council’s unwillingness to address their concerns. The Sandwell Private Hire Drivers Association will embark on a slow protest this Wednesday May 4 to show their opposition to the Sandwell Council, starting in West Bromwich town center and ending at the Sandwell Taxi Licensing Office in Cradley Heath.

This follows similar protests last year in August and over the Christmas holidays, where up to 200 taxi drivers gathered at the council house to raise concerns about the application processes and doubts on the fairness of taxi contracts. In January, the council’s own taxi contract documents failed to record a contract worth £20.1million.

Other taxi drivers complained about incomplete information submitted by transport companies, raising questions about whether the contracts were fair. They claim the Labour-led local authority has failed to review license fees and charges, which they say forces taxi drivers to apply for their licenses in more competitive councils, such as the City Council from Wolverhampton.

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It comes as the Local Democracy Reporting Service learned that Sandwell council leader Kerrie Carmichael had canceled a last-minute meeting with the association after discovering a taxi driver was running as a Conservative candidate in the local election. of this year.

Mohammed Niwaz, president of the Sandwell Private Hire Drivers Association, said: “We contacted the leader, Kerrie Carmichael, after a long wait. When we met her last month and explained to her the problems of the taxi business.

“She asked for three to four weeks to meet with the licensing people so she could understand the issues we have and what she could do for us. She had scheduled a follow-up meeting for us, but canceled our meeting because Imran Qureshi, the secretary of our association, is running as a Conservative in the local elections.

“We feel like we’re jumping through hoops just to be heard. We just want to be able to do our jobs freely and fairly.

According to taxi license application figures from last year, new license applications registered with Sandwell Council take between nine and 12 months to process. At Wolverhampton City Council, it takes about three weeks.

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A one-year-old taxi plate can cost £353 for a vehicle less than five years old and £399 if older if the vehicle is registered with Sandwell Council. Other councils, such as Dudley and Birmingham, charge £235 and £185 respectively for any aged vehicle.

A spokesman for Sandwell Council said: ‘We are making a number of improvements to our taxi licensing service in response to issues raised by the taxi industry, including the introduction of new licensing software for enable online applications and payments.

“We are meeting regularly with private hire driver representatives and are committed to making further changes to improve the licensing process and ensure consistent standards for taxi and private hire passengers.”

“A meeting between the head of the council and the representatives of the VTCs was organized this month. However, we have been advised that it would be prudent to postpone this until after the local elections as one of the drivers’ representatives has confirmed that he is standing as a candidate in the upcoming local elections. Arrangements will be made for the meeting to take place as soon as possible after the local elections.”

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