BLACK cab drivers have slammed Sheffield Council for proposing to hit them with increased fees to pay for an “unwanted and unnecessary” taxi marshal scheme.
The initiative has been proposed by David Parker, of the city centre management team, and would see drivers facing a £38.23 levy on top of the £155 annual fee they have to pay for a licence.
The marshals would be contracted in to provide security at taxi ranks, where they would ensure “orderly queues” and prevent fights between revellers.
But the extra cost has not been welcomed by Sheffield Taxi Trade Association, which is set to ask for permission to raise fares by 13 per cent - 20p per mile - to help drivers cover soaring fuel costs.
Hafeas Rehman, chairman of the association, which represents Sheffield’s 857 black cab drivers, said: “It will be a huge burden. The extra cost is equivalent to a 25 per cent increase in the cost of our annual fees, at a time when the fuel price hike has left drivers struggling to earn a living.
“It has nothing to do with public safety but the council is applying for a Purple Flag award, which recognises safe city centres, and needs a marshalling scheme to tick a couple of boxes towards the award. There has been no consultation with drivers.
“The scheme is unwanted and unnecessary.”
Mr Rehman said he had concerns about how taxi marshals were run by the council in the run-up to Christmas in recent years.
“They made no difference to how we operated or to people’s safety - and we had some problems with them. One driver was told he had to take a passenger who was very drunk and, when he refused, the marshals stood in his way and would not let him move, before kicking his vehicle. The driver locked the doors and refused to let the person in. I complained to the council about his treatment but received no response,” he said.
Mr Parker has compiled a report recommending a permanent marshal scheme, funded by a levy on drivers, to be considered by the council’s licensing board on Tuesday.
He said: “The budget would allow two taxi ranks to be marshalled every Friday and Saturday for the whole year. There is little doubt that marshals becoming a permanent fixture would assist in improving taxi traffic flow and reduce incidents of violence around the ranks.
“This contributes positively to the overall night time economy, helping the area as a whole to feel more welcoming and safer.”