MORE than 100 taxi drivers have protested about a new test of their local knowledge being introduced in Notts.
From July, Gedling Borough Council wants every driver in the borough to take a knowledge test, whether they’re applying for a licence or have one.
Existing drivers from as far away as Derby, Luton and Birmingham, who are registered in Gedling, demonstrated outside the Civic Centre in Arnold.
“Not all the taxi drivers will pass that test,” said Amjid Ali, 40, of Derby. “It’s like being asked to take your driving test again. It’s not fair.”
The drivers insist they are not against the knowledge test being introduced for new applicants but said people who rely on their taxi income will suffer.
If they fail the £35 test, they won’t be able to drive their cabs in Gedling or elsewhere. “It’s not the price of the test, it’s the principle,” said Khalid Nadeem, 46, of Aspley. “We’ve already paid to meet all their other criteria – like cars less than five years old, a full service history and doing less than 12,000 miles a year.
“When the DVLA brought in the theory test they didn’t ask drivers with licences to take it as well.”
“Some drivers have £40,000 cars on finance,” added Mr Ali. “If we have to stop working for a week or a month then how do we pay the instalments for the cars, for mortgages or feed our kids?
“Other councils have brought in the test but only for new drivers. I can see 75 per cent of the drivers not passing and having to sign on the dole instead.”
Since a change in the law in 2010, taxi drivers can obtain their licences in any authority area – not necessarily the one they ply for trade in.
To combat this, most councils introduced knowledge tests.
The fact that Gedling hasn’t done this until now is believed to have been the reason for a sharp increase in applications. In 2010-11 there were a 496 licenced taxi drivers in the area – and by 2013-14 this had more than doubled to 1,139.
The council has now decided to introduce the knowledge test because of concerns that too many taxi drivers from outside the borough saw them as an easy place to get a licence.
“It’s all about standards,” said deputy council leader Michael Payne. “We are not willing to be a badge of convenience. Many drivers here are backing the knowledge test and we are proud of the drivers who work in the borough that are passionate about their community and serving the people here.
“I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect drivers who have a badge in Gedling to know Gedling and not rely on sat navs.”
Councillor Payne, along with chairman of the environment and licensing committee, Councillor Marje Paling, took the test and passed.
“I’m not a taxi driver but I have a certificate to prove that I passed. That’s from having a local knowledge and understanding the highway code.
“Taxis are an important part of the local economy and the people of Gedling deserve drivers that know their area – not people who come here and take up officers’ time to go and work full-time in Derby.
“And the drivers should be proud to have the qualification – it shows that they are good at what they do.”