THE chairman of the organisation that represents Stratford-upon-Avon’s taxi drivers yesterday (Wednesday) voiced “absolute disgust” at a decision by the district council’s ruling cabinet that they must all now take a special driving test.
Roy Davies, chairman of the Stratford Taxi Association, said he had no objection to new taxi drivers taking the test.
“What we ask is that drivers who’ve been driving with a licence for ten to 20 years, who have experience of driving in all conditions—with no accidents or incidents of any sort—should not have to take the test,” he said. “Why should we have to prove we can drive a car?”
The test is known as a Driving Standards Agency (DSA) driving assessment. It has applied to new taxi drivers since 2004. On 1st January 2009 Stratford District Council decided that all taxi drivers should have taken the test by 1st January 2013.
At Monday’s meeting of the council’s cabinet representatives from the taxi association argued in favour of what are known as “grandfather rights” (the entitlement of experienced drivers to be exempt from the test) and said that these rights were common in other authorities. In any event a Law Commission review was under way that would probably introduce national standards in this area.
However, Cllr Mike Gittus (Cons, Kinwarton), the council’s portfolio holder for environment and planning, told the cabinet that no date had been set for the conclusion of the Law Commission review, that the DSA test was already in use in 166 other councils and that the importance of Stratford as a tourist destination justified high quality regulation and safety conditions in relation to taxi drivers.
But Mr Davies told the Herald yesterday that taxi drivers already did many things to prove their worth, including going on a disability awareness course. “Just how many more qualifications does a taxi driver have to have to prove that he or she can do the job?” he asked.
He added: “It’s just crazy, the amount of qualifications the council are imposing on us. They listen, but they don’t hear.”
Mr Davies said he felt like asking the council: “What is it about the taxi trade you don’t like? Why are you imposing all these conditions at every opportunity?”
He said: “With these extra conditions and costs we’re in No Man’s Land, with nowhere to go. We have no control over fuel prices, no control over running costs and no control over the council’s continual drain on our money. (They control the price of the meter—we don’t.)
“The standard of driving by Stratford taxi drivers is extremely high. We’re a professional body and professional in our jobs.”
In response, Cllr Gittus told the Herald that the taxi drivers had known they would all have to take the DSA test since 2009. “Sixty per cent of all taxi drivers in Stratford have passed this test,” he said. (However, Mr Davies said Cllr Gittus had not specified how many were new drivers since 2004.)
Cllr Gittus added: “As a direct result of good regulation by Stratford District Council we have a professional body of drivers who drive quality vehicles and provide a first class service to tourists and to the residents of Stratford. I would like the taxi drivers to acknowledge that—and the way we’ve supported them through the years.”
He said he had “no idea” why the taxi drivers were so angry.
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