Sandwell taxi drivers still waiting for reforms seven months on from protests

Taxi drivers in Sandwell say they are still waiting for promised reforms to the service, as one driver claimed the council leader “did not know” about licence issues.

Sandwell taxi drivers gather outside Sandwell Council House, Oldbury, to protest long delays when acquiring private hire licences, in August 2021
Sandwell taxi drivers gather outside Sandwell Council House, Oldbury, to protest long delays when acquiring private hire licences, in August 2021

Imran Mahmood Qureshi, secretary of the Sandwell Private Hire Drivers Association, said members are still waiting for the taxi reforms that had been promised by December last year.

A candidate for the Conservatives in the upcoming local elections, he said taxi drivers were willing to protest again over the lack of communication: “It’s frustrating for us as a trade. They publicly announced that the proposal will be accepted and implemented by Christmas in 2021. But because of leadership change, we have had no option but to just be patient and wait.

“Seven months is a long time to wait for taxi reforms. Other taxi drivers are now going to other councils for their licence.”

Taxi drivers across Sandwell protested outside Sandwell Council House in August last year, citing long delays to licence renewals and a lack of communication between the licence office and themselves.

It takes between nine and 12 months for new applications for a private hire licence to be processed in Sandwell.

For Wolverhampton Council, it takes approximately three weeks.

A one-year taxi plate costs £353 for a vehicle under five years old, and £399 if it is older, if the vehicle is registered with Sandwell Council.

Other councils, such as Dudley and Birmingham City, charge £235 and £185 for any aged vehicle.

Ex-council leader Rajbir Singh told the association he was “listening to the drivers’ concerns”, and said the licensing office was open five days a week.

But Mr Qureshi said they were considering holding a protest over the ordeal, and claimed the new council leader, Kerrie Carmichael, “did not know” about their concerns.

“Back in January I had correspondence with the leader’s office. Eventually they agreed for a meeting this month for answers to our questions.

“We thought if she gave us fruitful answers, that’s fine. If not we will go for protests continually until they accept our demands.

“When we attended in March, [Kerrie Carmichael] told us she didn’t know about our issues, or what was going on. Mr Mohammad Niwaz, the chairman of the association thought: ‘Okay, let’s go for a strike’, but one of our colleagues who attended the meeting said: ‘No, don’t strike, just give us a bit more time’.”

A Sandwell Council spokesperson said: “The taxi licensing service has made a number of improvements to its service in response to concerns raised by the taxi trade, including the introduction of new licensing software to enable online applications and payments. Further phases of the new software system are in progress and will be introduced this year.

“A review of fees was undertaken last year and no fee increases were made. A further review will be undertaken when the new licensing system is fully operational to assess any impact on fees.

“Progress with this and other improvements are shared regularly with the Sandwell Private Hire Drivers Association via the Sandwell taxi licensing forum, which currently meets on a monthly basis.

“A meeting was held between representatives from the Sandwell Private Hire Drivers Association and the leader of the council on 8 March 2022, at which the leader agreed to look into some matters raised. It was agreed that a further meeting would be held in four weeks’ time and this is being arranged.”

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News