POLISH taxi driver, Greg Rojewski from Stratford, has been left baffled once again by Stratford District Council’s refusal to allow him to display a sticker on his vehicle which features both Polish British flags in unity because the sticker is “likely to cause tension, offence or division.”
Greg says the sticker – which is about the size of a mobile phone – is meant as a goodwill gesture to customers to let them know he’s proud of his country of birth but equally proud of Britain where he’s lived and worked for 15 years.
He compares the council’s refusal to grant him permission to display the sticker as the same as, “pulling out a gun on a mosquito.”
It’s not the first time Greg’s fallen foul of the district council’s licensing regulations for taxi drivers in town. He previously displayed the same sticker in May but without council permission and was told to take it down which he complied with. He then had to drive to the council’s HQ in Church Street, Stratford, to prove he’d done so.
After that experience, which was exclusively reported in the Herald on 23rd May, Greg then decided to officially apply for permission to display the very same sticker on his district council registered Hackney Carriage.
Hoping to get the green light from council officials this time round he was told in a letter dated 17th June that his application had been refused but it was the content of the correspondence which caused him most disbelief.
“I got a letter telling me my application had been refused. The letter says, ‘local authorities have a legal duty under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to consider the likely effect of the exercise of those functions, and to do all they reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder in its area, including anti-social and other behaviour adversely affecting the local environment. The display of national flags on this taxi is likely to cause tension, offence or division in a manner that would breach these statutory requirements.’
“I had to ask myself, do they really think an innocent sticker which is meant as a welcome to everyone and especially to elderly Polish residents who might not speak English very well, is going to cause a riot in the town centre?” Greg said.
He’s no idea what as to what tension the council letter refers or to which flags.
“What tension are they talking about? And it’s national flags of each country, so does that mean the Union Jack can cause tension as well? And if the council say it’s only the Polish flag then I will bring up the 2010 Equality Act and the issue of discrimination,” he added.
To say Greg is gob smacked is an understatement but for now he’s not sure if it’s the end of the road for his friendship sticker which is meant to symbolise a history of unity between two nations which dates back centuries.
“I am surprised and I think the council explanation is ridiculous. There is nothing on the letter to tell me how I can appeal so what can I do?” Greg said.
A statement from Stratford District Council issued on Tuesday reads: ‘Stratford-on-Avon District Council’s taxi policy prevents the display of any livery on licensed vehicles unless written approval has been obtained by the district council.
‘Any request for a display of symbols, written words, pictures or similar on a licensed vehicle is carefully considered with a view to ensuring that the display of such items is appropriate, and that the taxi fleet remain welcoming in appearance to all passengers who may wish to use their services.
‘While display of some national flags may be uncontroversial with many people, different flags will have different meanings to different nationalities and international tensions should not be reflected in our local taxi trade, which is well represented by drivers who originate from lots of different countries.
‘The promotion of any one nation, or a nation’s politics, whether intentional or not, has the potential to stir tensions within the community, so the exteriors of our taxis are not the right canvas for expressions of national identity. The district council must remain neutral and, as a responsible licensing authority, we have a statutory duty to promote equality and ensure fairness for all without exception’.