Elland business owner calls on Calderdale Council to provide urgent help for private hire sector

A businessman from Elland is calling on Calderdale Council to provide urgent help to his company and the wider private hire community.

By Tom Scargill
Wednesday, 9th February 2022, 9:33 am

Steve Beales has owned Elite Voyager Chauffeur Travel since 2014 but says being unable to secure licences for new drivers, has cost him thousands in lost revenue and earnings for drivers.

Steve says he has had to sell some of his cars to keep the business afloat, and has had to give up his business premises and work from home.

"I have been trying to get new chauffeur drivers licensed since the start of July 2021 as replacements for longstanding drivers who had taken the decision to retire during the pandemic.

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Steve Beales

"Calderdale Council’s website didn't specify they weren't licensing, the online portal allowed applications to be submitted and fees paid to the council for new driver applications. There are several stages to licencing drivers which must be followed.

"The Council reintroduced measures that were impossible to comply with in the middle of a global pandemic – pre-pandemic the Council had removed some stages - in particular knowledge tests.

"The Council have also reintroduced English language test where previously, if you could supply a GCSE /O Level certificate, this replaced the need for the English test. Sadly some applicants provided non genuine certificates which has meant the test being reintroduced as the Council didn’t identify them.

"The pandemic and lack of available staff has meant an extreme shortage of available English tests being available via Calderdale Adult Learning with the next dates running into May or June this year. This stops the licensing process. Apparently this may be reviewed later this year.

"Pre pandemic I had 13 drivers and now operating with five drivers. This has caused immense stress on myself and also the remaining drivers. When you try to speak to someone at the Council you always have to chase, hold, wait, not get calls back. They consistently break promises to call back and fail to take any positive action.

"I am now in a position, as the economy opens up again, of having to advise customers that I cant provide the service that we were all proud to provide, solely due to a lack of drivers.

"I have sadly lost a few longstanding customers, which, had I had the additional drivers, would not have occurred. I had vehicles available but no one to drive."

Steve fears for the future of his company unless the situation can be resolved.

When asked what help he wants from Calderdale Council, Steve said: "Take decisive action to allow people to work to earn a living, respond to requests for meetings and phone calls in a timely manner.

"Work with other local authorities to accept each others tests where other Local Authorities have availability. And, similar to West Yorkshire Police, why cant they hold zoom meetings for courses? Why can't the council do similar for English and Knowledge tests? Help businesses not hamper their recovery”

"Calderdale’s own mission statement is to: "...aspire to be a place where talent and enterprise can thrive.....and by how our people care for each other and able to recover from setbacks and are full of hope".

"They are not living up to their own mission statement. I cannot understand why they do not want to support local businesses who have struggled to survive but are now faced with unnecessary bureaucracy which could be the final straw.

"It's upsetting that the various individuals cannot even be bothered to contact you after numerous requests.

"It's not a complicated request, it was more streamlined prior to Covid and has become ridiculously more vexing during Covid at a time when a sensible approach to “normal life” is required”.

"I have previously contacted my local MP Craig Whittaker and West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin's office but sadly neither are able to assist."

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Jenny Lynn, said: “Calderdale Council works with other authorities across West Yorkshire to ensure that our taxi, private hire and executive drivers are held to the highest standards for safety, safeguarding and customer experience. As part of our policy we require all applicants to meet certain standards including an Enhanced DBS, an English speaking, listening and reading test, a Medical and Knowledge test. We do provide support and guidance for applicants as they work through this process and would always encourage anyone having any difficulties to contact the Council: https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/siteinfo/contacts/index.html

“We’re aware of Mr Beales’ concerns and take the issues raised very seriously. Due to the ongoing impacts of the COVID pandemic there are significant backlogs with third party providers across the country and we are working with our partners in West Yorkshire to find ways to reduce the burden on the sector.

“Our adult learning service continues to work hard to safely accommodate all learners and endeavours to support people into employment. Since reopening in September, the service has held weekly taxi assessment and knowledge tests and is looking at additional capacity where possible. Anyone looking for support into employment or for advice about Calderdale Adult Learning courses, can contact the service at https://www.calderdale.gov.uk/v2/residents/education-and-learning/adult-learning/contact.”