Sheffield taxi driver slams council claiming it costs out-of-town cabbies far less to work here
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As Sheffield Council says it is not in a position to tighten up out-of-area licensing rules, a taxi driver is calling on them to relax 'draconian measures' around the age of vehicles to help them to compete.
Sheffield taxi driver, Yazid Atallah, said he and his fellow cabbies are being penalised for ‘going about things the right way’ and adhering to the conditions of the Sheffield City Council taxi licensing scheme, which the local authority itself acknowledges are among ‘highest licensing standards in the UK’.
He wrote an open letter to Sheffield City Council, on behalf of the city’s taxi drivers, calling on them to address issues surrounding Sheffield experiencing a ‘large influx of Wolverhampton taxi plated vehicles’.
Yazid claimed, through the letter, that ‘it is easy to obtain a Wolverhampton private hire licence’ because ‘the course can be completed in a day, there is no driving test or even an extensive knowledge test required’.
Sheffield-licensed drivers, however, says Yazid, are required to obtain a 'certificate of professional taxi and private hire driver course to be completed in a college, safeguard training and knowledge and driving test' to get their badge.
In response to Yazid’s letter, Councillor Joe Otten, chair of the waste and street scene committee at Sheffield City Council, said: “Licensed vehicles are permitted to work in other areas to those in which they are licensed as set out by the Secretary of State.
“On behalf of the committee, I wrote to the Government who acknowledged the challenges out-of-area working presented to licensing authorities and that it was to be looked at as part of the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and PHV Licensing. There was no consensus on how to tackle the issue and the Government concluded that it would not, at this time, take forward out-of-area restrictions. This is highly frustrating and we appreciate this is frustrating for taxi drivers too.
“Sheffield has some of the highest licensing standards in the UK, equally we have high vehicle standards. We will continue to ensure public safety with the policies we set.”
But Yazid believes that the council could, and should, be doing more to improve the situation for the city’s taxi drivers, with measures that would allow them to compete with drivers using out-of-area licences.
He said: “The fact is that if nothing can be done, why can’t they make it easier to compete in our own area, we’re not being fairly treated.”
Yazid says drivers operating in Sheffield with a Wolverhampton private hire badge are able to use vehicles which are up to 11 years old, while drivers working in the city with a Sheffield licence are not permitted to drive vehicles which are more than five years old.
“If I need to buy a vehicle now, it has to be one made at the end of 2018 or beginning of 2019, and cars have gone up by 30 per cent, which means the second-hand market has gone up. It’s a lot of money to own a vehicle that’s less than five years old,” Yazid said.
Yazid says the ‘huge financial pressures’ placed upon on Sheffield-licensed drivers as a result of the council's 'draconian measures' have resulted in scores of drivers taking on 'more and more hours' in a bid to cope with spiralling costs.
He believes this pressure could be eased if the council relaxed their rules, and allowed drivers to badge up slightly older cars of up to seven years old, providing they fall within the Euro 6 standard.
As part of Sheffield’s Clean Air Zone, petrol vehicles need to be Euro 4 and diesel vehicles Euro 6 to avoid the £10 daily charge for taxis and vans.”
“Cars of that age have the same Euro 6 standard and compliance in terms of emissions, they even have the same engines, so they don’t produce more emissions than what we’re driving. But the cost is a lot lower,” Yazid said.
And while Yazid welcomes Sheffield’s high licensing standards because he believes that you should have to undergo rigorous training and checks if you’re going to work with people, including children, he believes the current situation is becoming so untenable for Sheffield-licensed drivers that they may be forced to go to other authorities like Wolverhampton to get their badge in future to keep costs down.
“All we want is a level playing field, why should we be paying more to be working in the same area?”
“But if they won’t give us that then drivers are going to go elsewhere for their licences. I feel like the only way the council might start listening is if they stopped getting fees for Sheffield taxi licences.”