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Fears raised over lack of support for Suffolk cabbies to become more energy efficient

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Concerns have been raised over a lack of measures to support cab drivers in Mid Suffolk to switch to energy efficient vehicles.

Councillors from Mid Suffolk District Council's opposition Green and Liberal Democrat group voted against a new vehicle hire policy for Hackney Carriage cabs - those which can be hailed from the roadside - during a meeting of the authority's licensing committee on Monday.

They said that the refreshed policy did not have enough in the way of incentives, guidance or support to aid firms in switching to zero-emission vehicles.

Concerns have been raised about the lack of effort being made to help Mid Suffolk cabbies switch to more energy efficient vehicles.
Concerns have been raised about the lack of effort being made to help Mid Suffolk cabbies switch to more energy efficient vehicles.

The policy was approved on the chairman's casting vote, meaning it will now go out for a 28-day consultation with the public and members of the trade.

Licensing committee member Dr Dan Pratt, said: “Our council has unanimously declared a climate emergency and has agreed we must do whatever we can to tackle climate change.

"It is truly shocking that we are missing this opportunity to help our taxi operators transition to lower emissions. Offering taxi drivers no support is, frankly, burying our heads in the sand.”

Andrew Stringer
Andrew Stringer

Fellow committee member Andrew Stringer, pictured, pointed to incentive schemes such as those in Dundee, where £35,000 loans are offered to encourage drivers to switch to electric vehicles, and free electric parking was provided on cab ranks.

He added: "Within the life time of this policy, it will not be possible to even buy a new fossil fuelled car, and we are promoting a policy that doesn’t help our taxi drivers to change, but encourages using the dirtiest cars for as long as we can."

A spokesman from the licensing team told the committee: "The licensing team are currently still undertaking research into incentives but we are aware of several incentives both from central government and more locally.

"As part of this policy review though the team have identified that further research is required to ensure that this council has a robust incentive scheme in order to fully benefit the trade and strongly encourage the move to a greener fleet.

"The licensing team on next review of this policy or sooner hope to circulate to this committee a fully formed incentive scheme to make way for a fully carbon neutral fleet.

"In the interim the team would be happy to work with the council if there were any incentives they may be able to offer."

Emma Richbell, assistant manager for food, safety and licensing added that the drive for carbon efficient vehicles needed to be balanced with viability for the trade.

The cheapest new electric vehicles cost between £15,000 and £17,500, but it is likely most cab drivers will need more expensive larger vehicles than electric coupes to accommodate groups of passengers and those with mobility issues or pushchairs.

A Government push in 2019 offered to exempt zero emission cabs from higher vehicle tax charges, while plug-in grants are available for certain vehicles specified by the Department for Transport.

Under current Government plans, new petrol powered vehicles will not be available to buy after 2030.

The council's climate emergency pledge unanimously agreed in 2019 means the authority must become next carbon zero by 2030.

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