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Controversial licensing changes for Newcastle taxi drivers set to be discussed

Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council is holding a licensing committee tonight to discuss changes to the way taxi owners operate.

Taxi operators in the borough have already held an evening of industrial action as a way of protesting against proposed changes to the licensing policy.

Stephen Sweeney, Deputy Leader of the Council and the Cabinet member responsible for taxi licensing issues said: “The Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee will consider a draft Taxi Licensing Policy 2019-21 when councillors meet on 11 June.

“We have produced this draft policy to protect the safety and well-being of the travelling public. These are the foundations of what this policy is all about.

“Throughout the development of this policy we have kept a constant, open dialogue with representatives from the hackney carriage and private hire trade.

“Councillor Mark Olszewski, the Chair of the committee, and I have met with the drivers and their representatives twice, officers have met with them on several occasions and we have listened carefully to the points they have made.

"We have also extended the consultation on the new policy twice at their request."

There are around 1,100 drivers licensed in the borough and the Council say their goal is to ensure they have a framework in place to ensure hackney carriage and private hire drivers, and their vehicles, provide a service 'which puts the safety and welfare of the travelling public as the first priority'.

Councillor Sweeney added: “We are not prepared to accept the lowering of any standards which would impact upon this priority. Our draft policy will help to ensure standards are kept at a high level.

“We understand some drivers are threatening to apply for licences at other councils where perhaps standards are not as high as ours.

"This is not illegal but the travelling public should surely be asking local operators whether this is something which they think puts customer safety and welfare as the most important priority. 

“We also understand some drivers are not happy with the draft policy and are threatening action which will impact on their customers if they do not get all of their own way with further changes to the policy.

"This is deeply regrettable but the Council believes its first duty is to safeguard standards and public safety.”

The committee has already made a number of changes to the proposals first put forward by council officers and Councillor Sweeney feels they have been more than reasonable in making those alterations which are based on concerns raised by drivers and operators.

The authority says that operators and drivers will again have an opportunity to speak at tonight's meeting and the draft policy could be amended further depending on feedback before being put to main council.

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