Taxi drivers apply the brakes in snap strike
The dispute, which was sparked by the council’s plans to introduce a stricter, wider-reaching Taxi Licensing Policy, spilled over when angry drivers put the brakes on their trade overnight.
Leader of Pendle Council, Coun. Mohammed Iqbal, took to social media when he announced that no notice of industrial action had been given.
He defended the council’s actions and said that public safety was paramount.
He said: “I can confirm that no notice was given to Pendle Council about a strike by taxi drivers in Pendle.
“In terms of the reasons for the strike I like many people are unaware of these and would ask the taxi association representatives to share the grounds for the sudden strike.
“One reason given was the so-called increase in fees. I will post the council report for everyone to read. Please note we had no objections to the revised fee structure when the decision was taken in September 2016.
“As leader of the council I am prepared to meet with the trade and avoid any further disruption to the public but safety is not something we will compromise on.”
The Nelson Leader reported recently that all taxi drivers and operators must now undertake training to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation.
They must also register with the Disclosure and Data Barring Service to allow Pendle Council to check online for any convictions since their licence was granted. Only drivers can apply to enable this service which costs £13 per year.
Executive councillors voted for these policy changes at its latest meeting to minimise the risk of child sexual exploitation in Pendle and to safeguard anyone using a taxi, as well as the drivers themselves.
Similar council actions sparked a strike by taxi drivers in nearby Rossendale recently.
But an announcement by the Pendle Taxi Association on social media said the strike would continue.
Taxi firm Matrix Cars said: “It has been agreed that the strike action will continue up to the council meeting on Monday night. At this time we will hopefully know when the taxi companies will resume service.
“We apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your continued patience and support.”
The Pendle Conservative group meanwhile is calling for a reappraisal of Taxi Licence administration.
Coun. Joe Cooney, leader of the group, said: “We were unaware the strike was going to be called and while taxi operators may believe they have valid grievances, the withdrawal of service isn’t the right approach.
“The current administration of Pendle Borough Council must share some of the blame for the current situation. It introduced an age increase in vehicles, despite the continued poor safety record and then dealt inconsistently with those who failed to comply.
“There is consensus among residents that public safety is the number one concern. However, the Conservatives believe that by rushing in these new policies, especially relaxing the age of vehicles for political gain, the Labour-led Executive of Pendle Council has jeopardised the safety of the public and led to current dispute.”
The Tories are now calling for an independent investigation to be held into the concerns around the increase in vehicle age, as well as the mechanism of issuing of penalty points to the operators.
Coun. Cooney added: “We remain firmly against the increase in age of taxis. This has led to an 81% failure rate in spot checks, which are rightly carried out by Pendle Borough Council.
“However, the way that this policy has been implemented has led to uncertainty for taxi operators. What we need now is an investigation looking at all the facts and issues leading up to this strike.”