SCUNTHORPE cabbies have voiced their anger over new rules that they say could put them in danger.
As part of their Licensing Taxi Policy, North Lincolnshire Council has suggested drivers could receive eight to 12 points on their Hackney licence if they refuse fares “without a reasonable excuse” – with 12 points meaning they could lose their licence.
Now drivers have set up a new association to challenge the rules.
John Fleming, owner of Triple A Taxis and chairman of the new Scunthorpe branch of the National Taxi Association, said the drivers objected to the proposals.
He said: “At a licensing committee meeting we were told that we had to take fares no matter what and if we refuse for any reason we will be prosecuted.
“What happens if I get someone in my taxi who is threatening? I’m worried about my safety. Where is the safety for the drivers?
“There has been no consultation with us on this.”
At a meeting this week, taxi drivers spoke of being verbally and physically abused and losing money because of people running off without paying.
One driver, Mahmoud Asaduzzaman, said: “Someone got into my car and said they did not have any money. I drove him around for about an hour and a half while he went from house to house saying he would get the money, but he didn’t. I called the police, but they said it was a civil matter so I ended up with no fare.”
Another, Dhilwar Hussain, said: “I refused to take somebody because they were too drunk and they smashed the window of my cab. Now the council is saying we can’t refuse fares.”
Another driver, Pete Hayre, said: “There are a lot of female drivers in Scunthorpe and it’s putting their lives in danger.”
A council spokeswoman said: “The points system will only change how the council can take action against taxi drivers. It is a middle ground rather than drivers getting prosecuted straightaway for an offence.
“National legislation states that it is a criminal offence to refuse to carry a passenger unless they have an infectious disease, have an animal with them (except if it is a service or assistance animal) or if someone is deceased.
“However it is at the council’s discretion what action is taken.
“Unfortunately, the council has found that there is a need to deal with drivers who refuse to carry passengers as we have received a number of complaints.
“Enforcement action has taken place in the past and people have been refused for no other reason than the journey was too short.”
Councillor Keith Vickers, who chairs the licensing committee, said he can see the difficulties, but taxi drivers cannot refuse to take fares.
He said: “If there is a reasonable reason for not taking a fare this will be considered. Every case will be considered on its own. If we receive a complaint we will look into it.”
The new rules have been introduced weeks after the Telegraph revealed passengers’ concerns that drivers were refusing to take them home because the journeys were short.