Guildford Borough Council will pay 75% of the taxi repaint to create a uniform livery while drivers will also require new qualifications
The new uniform will involve cars being emblazoned with the Guildford Borough Councillogo and potentially a full car body paint of silver or Guildford’s own, more striking, teal known as pantone 321.
A petition against the livery, started by driver Mick Simmons, has 115 signatures and he believes more will be added. He was supported by 30 taxi drivers at the licensing committee meeting on Wednesday (March 18).
Mr Simmons said: “The idea to make Hackney carriages look more like taxis is a waste of money to rate payers and drivers.
“If they go ahead with the livery, the problem will still exist of private hire impersonating Hackney carriages they will just a have a uniform to copy.
“We have great things in this borough, we have a castle, we’re a market town by the river yet none of these more attractive things were considered to be put on our taxis, instead we get this awful colour.
“The livery will also disadvantage drivers to some earnings. For example some drivers earn money by having advertising for local companies and some with more exclusive vehicles will not get the benefits of exclusive work.”
The members of the Guildford Hackney Association believe the council’s focus on safety is misinformed. They said as many taxis now, once booked, will call or text the customer with details of vehicle type and registration number, making a uniform livery unnecessary.
The council will cover 75% of the estimated £750 repainting price at a total cost to the taxpayer of around £120,000 as it will not come out of the licence fee paid by taxi drivers.
This amount, and also the £30,000 overall cost to the taxi drivers, in Guildford was stated by the secretary for the Guildford Hackney association, Mark Rostron, as not being mentioned in the public consultation.
Mr Rostron believes more public education and council enforcement is needed.
“Over 40% of sample didn’t know that you couldn’t hire a private hire car from a taxi rank or flag one down. For those people, putting a livery on the taxi won’t make a difference,” he said.
“It is a public education issue not and identification issue.
“Contrary to what we have been told so far 59% didn’t want a full car livery, what they wanted was a Guildford logo which they already have.
“If the public don’t know the difference between a taxi and a private hire what is the point in the livery? The real problem is public education and enforcement issues.”
The proposals in the new Hackney carriage and private hire policy also included more in-depth training and assessment of drivers, however Mr Rostron again questioned whether the council would strip the ‘livelihood away from drivers who were not good at exams’ but good at their job.
The training would include a local knowledge test plus an equivalent of an NVQ level 2 qualification which could take 40 hours to complete.
The council has proposed existing taxi drivers will have their exams subsidised with new drivers set to pay for their qualification.
Councillor Paul Spooner, lead councillor for licensing and governance said: “Taxis and private hire vehicles provide an important service to the local community, particularly at night.
“We want to ensure our taxis are easily identifiable and the new livery will reassure passengers that they are taking a licensed cab.
“In a recent consultation, 84% of the travelling public said they agreed taxis should have a livery. We are making great strides to provide a well-respected, professional service in our borough.”
Another aspect of the Hackney carriage and private hire policy to be changed was the removal of all new vehicles to be wheelchair accessible this is instead to be replaced with financial incentives for drivers.
Speaking after the meeting however some drivers felt this would encourage existing drivers to change to smaller vehicles which were cheaper to run and license.
The policy will now be considered by the full Council on Tuesday April 14.
If approved drivers will have 18 months to adopt the changes.
Source: Get Surrey