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PROTEST PLIGHT


CABBIES PROTEST AGAINST PLANNED BRADFORD CLEAN AIR ZONE


Bradford cabbies have held a protest outside City Hall over concerns a planned Clean Air Zone could have a major impact on the industry. Bradford Council plans to introduce the CAZ in the city in January 2022. It would see the most polluting cabs charged £12.50 per day to enter the city centre. On the evening of Friday 12 March dozens of private hire and taxi drivers drove their vehicles to City Hall to protest the plans and, what they argue is the lack of consultation with the industry.


Asif Shah, Chair of Better Taxi Action Group and the West Yorkshire Coali- tion, who organised the protest told PHTM: “Drivers came from across York- shire including Bradford, Leeds, Wakefield and Keighley to protest at the introduction of the Clean Air Zone at a time when our trade is already struggling to survive and neighbouring city Leeds has put their CAZ plans on hold. “Bradford Council has shamefully offered no financial support to their licensed drivers during this pandemic and the trade is understandably frustrated and angry to be given only eight months to comply with some- thing which they have had little consultation or guidance on.” Asif added: “With the pandemic, in these times of hardship, it is not feasible to expect drivers to fork out so much money. “Drivers in Bradford are very concerned about this. The lack of communication from the council is a huge problem and there has been little clarity on the mat- ter. Taxis make up about five per cent of traffic in Bradford, so if the council is serious about the CAZ, why is not tar- geting other drivers, too? “We are not against the CAZ at all, we just think that this can be executed in a better way, instead of it being targeted against an industry which has already


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been struggling. “It’s been very difficult for taxi drivers over the last 12 months. There has been an 80 per cent drop in customers, which has had a huge impact. Drivers have had SEISS grants, but that only covers their costs – it adds nothing extra. “Taxi drivers have been reliant on their income for most of their lives, and suddenly, it has come to a stop. People are struggling and it is causing a lot of mental health issues. “It is having a much bigger impact than what meets the eye. Some drivers are having marital and family problems, which come back to the fact that they are struggling at work and are going through stress. “We feel that the council has failed to think about the impact its decisions are having on people and their everyday lives. The decisions they make can impact people a lot more than they realise.” Mr Shah confirmed that great lengths have been taken to ensure that the protest is Covid-secure and does not cause any disruption to others. He stated: “When the Council sees how many people are affected and upset by this issue, we hope they will reconsider their decision.” At a meeting of the Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee on Thursday 11 March, some Councillors raised similar concerns, claiming that Bradford’s taxi industry has been ignored when draw-


ing up the CAZ proposals. During the meeting Councillors and officers got into a heated and at times fiery discus- sion about how much taxi drivers had been consulted on the plans. Members were due to vote through changes including increasing the amount of time drivers are able to run CAZ compliant vehicles to 15 years, rather than ten years. Kamran Hussain said he supported the CAZ, but he also seemed to question whether a consultation with taxi drivers had ever happened. Cllr Zafar Ali said: “Hackney carriage drivers in Keighley are concerned by this extra burden. Some say they will quit the business this year.” Cllr Mohammed Amran said he felt the grant available to taxi drivers was “very low.” He said there had been little engagement with cabbies about these plans, saying: “It is not acceptable. You never inform us Councillors. We could have got the message out to taxi drivers. I say this all the time and I feel it just goes in one ear and comes out the other.” Three councillors suggested the decision be deferred until a future meeting, when taxi representatives are in attendance. Andrew Whittles, programme manager, pointed out that the CAZ was still going ahead, and the grants process would soon begin and that the amount being offered to cabbies to upgrade their vehicles was much higher than other cities. He said: “Deferring this decision will just mean that taxi drivers won’t be as sure as to what vehicles they will be able to apply for. The zone will go ahead, it just means for now taxi drivers won’t know which vehicle they can buy.” Despite this warning the committee voted to defer the decision to a future meeting, which members heard would not likely be held for several weeks.


APRIL 2021


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