More than 100 furious Rotherham taxi drivers have threatened strike action over new regulations designed to combat child sexual exploitation.
A demonstration was held outside Rotherham Town Hall this afternoon, as Commissioner Mary Ney confirmed her intention to introduce the new policy from July 6.
The new licensing regime will require all drivers to install CCTV into their vehicles in the next three months.
They will also have to demonstrate they are a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold a licence, with licence holders needing to have a BTEC qualification and a satisfactory level of English.
The shake-up comes after the Jay report revealed the ‘prominent role’ of Rotherham taxi drivers in the abuse of children, while the follow-up Casey inquiry said Rotherham Council needed to ‘get their house in order and regulate taxis effectively’ due to the ‘well-publicised link between taxis and child sexual exploitation in Rotherham that has cast a long shadow over the vast majority of law-abiding drivers’.
But angry drivers said they are being made a ‘scapegoat’ for the town’s grooming scandal.
Their demonstration followed an evening of strike action on Saturday night ahead of the decision.
Driver Gulam Yasseen told the crowd: “I have been disgusted and shocked by the child sexual exploitation cases in our town. Like all of you, I would never defend any criminal who is guilty of this heinous crime.
“These cases we have heard about go back 10 or 20 years. This is shocking. I didn’t tell Rotherham Council or the police not to do their jobs.
“These young girls are like my own daughters and it is a shame that the council and police let them, and all of us, down.”
But Commissioner Ney said the changes are designed to restore public faith in the town’s taxi trade and should ultimately be beneficial to the drivers.
She said: “The taxi trade has a poor reputation because of a few people. The council’s taxi licensing service has also been in disrepute.
“We have got to get both sides up to standard and we needed a new policy so people can have confidence in both.”
She said some changes have been made following consultation with drivers, including scrapping plans for cabs to be certain colours.
The policy will be evaluated after a year to see if the changes have been effective.
It follows five licences being revoked from drivers in the town following information being provided from the police concerning investigations related to child sexual exploitation.