Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds taxi drivers announce strike action as policy review by West Suffolk Council approaches
Taxi drivers in Newmarket and Bury St Edmunds have agreed to go on strike over a West Suffolk Council policy which aims to make taxis wheelchair accessible.
The strike, which will include a mass demonstration by taxi drivers outside West Suffolk Council offices in Bury, will take place on Monday.
The council has ordered a review in to its policy, which it says is part of a national directive to increase accessibility.
Strike action was agreed at a meeting held at Rowley Mile’s car park on August 6, with dozens of drivers voicing their anger at changes which could cost each driver £20,000.
Gordon Playford, one of the drivers who organised the meeting, said: “They’ve not consulted us or even shown the courtesy of meeting with us. There has been zero dialogue and we’re being ignored.
“It would cost £20,000 to buy one of these vehicles, and I have five years left until retirement. Even if I had that sort of money sitting around it wouldn’t be worthwhile.
“They don’t seem to care how it affects people and their livelihood.
Rob Dorling, a driver who owns a vehicle compliant with the accessibility rule, said: “Our handbook was revised in October to bring in this rule, and the licensing department have been refusing licences for some drivers with saloon cars since May.
"Were the public or the trade consulted and was a risk assessment undertaken for whether the elderly can even use these large vehicles?”
The demand for these vehicles is very low and some elderly customers can't even climb the steps to get in.
“The council has said its a national directive, but it isn't. They’re playing with our livelihoods.”
Taxi driver Annalisa Hirst-Astle added: “If there are any solicitors in the Newmarket area who would be interested in discussing this with us, they can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org”.
West Suffolk Council has said that only new hackney carriages have to have wheelchair access, adding: “The changes were included in 2019 following a consultation, including the taxi industry, on the handbook. There was also a further consultation in 2020 on the handbook and the taxi industry also took part in that. During this time this concern was not raised."
Cllr Andy Drummond said: “As a Council we want to ensure that all people in our communities are able to access services they need and that the taxis licenced for use in our area meet the needs of disabled people.
“We will be carrying out the review to ensure the service matches the needs of all taxi users and that people with disabilities are not discriminated against.”