Dewsbury councillor questions 'fairness' of taxi system

Labour councillor Cathy Scott
Labour councillor Cathy Scott

Taxi drivers in Kirklees who transport passengers to Leeds are being hit by thousands of pounds-worth of charges for entering the city’s clean air zone.

The charges are waived for drivers based in Leeds.

Now councillors in the borough have called for a “unified approach” that stops local drivers being penalised as the authority gets set to adopt a new licensing policy for hackney carriages and private hire cars councillors.

Drivers from Kirklees are understood to be setting up a petition, and preparing a deputation, in reaction to the new policy prior to its introduction on April 1, 2020.

Raising the issue of congestion charges at a meeting of Kirklees Council’s Licensing and Safety Committee in Huddersfield Town Hall, Clr Cathy Scott (Lab, Dewsbury East) called for Kirklees drivers to receive the same exemption as their Leeds colleagues.

Currently drivers from outside Leeds face a surcharge of £12.50 per day as they enter the city’s clean air charging zone (CAZ).

Said Clr Scott: “This is going to impact on a lot of businesses because some of them do up to 7,000 trips a year. That’s going to impact on jobs.”

Leeds is able to reduce the financial burden on its taxi drivers via funding given to the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA), a group of leading councillors and officers from West

Yorkshire councils, plus York, that works on major infrastructure projects.

Clr Scott added: “I’ve received a lot of lobbying in regards to the fairness of it.

“Kirklees didn’t receive that funding. It was actually given to Leeds authority. But if we’re talking about a combined authority surely the word ‘combined’ can be introduced into this negotiation?

“This isn’t only about Leeds. It’s about Wakefield and others.

“It’s a small industry in some cases. If we talk in Kirklees about supporting businesses across the borough it should also be involving taxi drivers.”

Officers with the council said the authority was investigating whether it could access government funding to assist local drivers.

The proposed new policy includes adopting a revised standard for testing vehicles: upon first licensing and then annually on renewal.

The council is looking to encourage the use of low emission vehicles, including electric vehicles and is working with WYCA to install a network of electric charging points.

Drivers have also expressed concern that the policy only accepts applications for vehicles up to six years of age, and that vehicles over 10 years old (but not London-type cabs) will be refused further licences.