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PROTEST PLIGHT


LEEDS PRIVATE HIRE DRIVERS FIGHT COUNCIL POLICY THAT COULD SEE THEM LOSE THEIR JOBS


Private hire drivers gathered outside Leeds Civic Hall to protest a new policy that could see drivers with points on their licence lose their jobs. Leeds City Council tried to bring in the ‘six-point policy’ 18 months ago but held back in the face of driver uproar and a large demonstration. But on 6 July, inside the council build- ing, the licensing committee gave its backing to an amendment that would give more leeway to drivers with points. Rather than an immediate suspension of a driver’s taxi licence once they exceed six points, the amended policy includes a sliding scale of penalties relating to the number of points. For minor offences, drivers would also be asked to undertake extra training before suspension comes into play. But protesters are concerned that the sliding scale still allows room for harsh suspensions that could affect a driver’s


income, even when they may have done nothing wrong. Ahmed Hussain, Chairman of Leeds Private Hire Driver Organisation, said: “There’s discretion, there’s a fit and proper person test and we want a sub- committee to decide these things. “The officers are giving us the usage of a service [taxi licence] then at the same time they are implementing the punish- ment. If they look at neighbouring


councils, Bradford has a sub-commit- tee, it’s not a one-man decision whether a driver’s badge gets revoked. “In Newcastle they wait until a Magis- trates’ Court finds a driver guilty or not guilty before his badge is revoked, until then he can work. Same with Birming- ham, Newcastle and Sheffield.” Labour councillor for Gipton and Hare- hills, Arif Hussain, who was a taxi driver in Leeds for 30 years, joined the protesters outside Civic Hall. He said: “The consultation for the suit- ability process and also the report that the licensing committee is considering is not correct. We’re talking about at least 1,000 drivers who were not emailed in 2019 for the consultation.” The licensing committee agreed to rec- ommend the amendment to the Executive Board for consideration in September and there will be further consultation with drivers and the public.


PROTEST HELD FOLLOWING PLANS TO MOVE TAXI RANK AND PEDESTRIANISE LEEDS STATION


A protest has been held against Leeds City Council’s plans to pedestrianise Leeds Station and its surrounding area as part of a £39.5 million investment scheme in the area. Work is due to be completed in 2023.


Cars and buses will no longer be able to use New Station Street, meaning the taxi rank and bus stops will be moved. The Yorkshire Evening Post reports that taxi services will then be relocated to Bishopgate Street. Members of the LCC AUAG & Disability Hub protested in Millennium Square on Monday, July 19 to voice concerns about accessibility. More than 50 people attended the protest. Following the protest, Mary Naylor MBE, Chair of the National Federation of the Blind Leeds Branch and Access


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Usability Group Member, told the Post it was “so important” to ensure Leeds stays accessible. She added: “We are overwhelmed by the tremendous public support for our ‘Gathering for Justice’ and we’ve esti- mated that around 50 of our members, along with representatives of Unite the Union and taxi trade attended. “It is so important that we stop the removal of taxi ranks in Leeds City Cen- tre, including at the train station to ensure Leeds stays open and accessi- ble to all our peers who rely on this critical door to door service and we call on Cllrs James Lewis and Paul Truswell to meet with us to better understand the enormous personal costs associat- ed with removing taxi ranks and excluding older and disabled people


from our City Centre.” A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “The proposals are to make New Station Street pedestrian-friendly, safer and traffic-free. “The proposed move means that peo- ple will no longer have to cross a busy road to access the taxi rank, and the number of taxis able to queue at the rank will be doubled. “We understand the importance of taxi ranks to many disabled and older peo- ple, and have worked hard to ensure that other key ranks across the city centre which support access to the pedestrian core of the city are retained and improved. “We will continue to consider proposals or suggestions to enhance the design further, as we finalise our scheme.”


AUGUST 2021


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