Councillor speaks of 'racist undertones' in taxi licensing policy

Councillors in Stafford have defended their taxi licensing policy after another member raised concerns some of the wording had “racist undertones”.

Councillor speaks of “racist undertones” in taxi licensing policy
Councillor speaks of “racist undertones” in taxi licensing policy

Councillor Gillian Pardesi said she had found “several worrying examples of discrimination” and “subtle finger pointing at various groups of people” in the foreword of the document.

But fellow councillors told her at Stafford Borough Council's cabinet meeting that no concerns had ever been raised about the wording since the policy was put in place in 2017.

Councillor Pardesi proposed to have the document amended, but other councillors did not side with her – choosing instead to approve the current document.

Her reasoning that the document had racist undertones included reference in the foreword to cases of child sexual exploitation that have been reported in other parts of the country, as well as references to health conditions such as diabetes that have a higher prevalence in certain communities.

Councillor Pardesi said: “I don’t believe that we can approve this policy in its present form. I’m not suggesting that any of this was intentional or wilfully done, but it does concern me that if we approve this policy this evening we risk endorsing a policy which contains racist undertones and unfortunately targets people with certain health conditions. It panders to some people’s unfortunate prejudices.

“We should bear in mind – although I don’t have figures – I would guess a significant number of our drivers are men of colour. Can I ask what the ethnic makeup of the bodies that we consulted with is?

“I believe there are some references in this policy and its tone that I don’t believe would have been made if all our taxi drivers and applicants had been white.”

Councillor Jonathan Price, who wrote the foreword on the document, said: “This document has been there for a substantial period of time and I have not heard from you at all”.

Councillor Jeremy Pert, cabinet member for community and health, said: “This document has not just come before the council for the first time. It has been out to consultation and I have seen these documents at least three times in nine months.

“I do not believe this council, or its members or officers, would intentionally do anything along the lines that are being suggested.”

Speaking after the meeting, Stafford Taxi Association's chairman Colin Jones said: "Half of our committee are Asian and 65 per cent of our Hackney Carriage drivers are Asian – we also have Poles and Albanians. We have not had any issues reported and if customers were having problems we would know.”

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