‘Taxi drivers are not criminals, we’re trying to make a living’: Private hire boss hits out at crackdown

Sultan Hussain, gen sec of Cald Private Hire Association with a taxi driver, Jawaid Akhtar
Sultan Hussain, gen sec of Cald Private Hire Association with a taxi driver, Jawaid Akhtar

TAXI drivers have criticised a heavy-handed sting which took 10 drivers off the road and impounded vehicles for the first time.

And one driver claims a misunderstanding left him hundreds of pounds out-of-pocket, without his livelihood and vehicle.

Police and licensing officers from Calderdale Council acted after complaints of illegal plying for fares by private hire taxi drivers.

Badges and plates were seized and new powers were used to take possession of eight cars on the grounds that the offending nullified insurance.

Sultan Hussain, general secretary of the Calderdale Private Hire Association, said if taxi drivers were in the wrong they deserved to be punished.

But he said to take away livelihoods – and cars which are also used for personal use – while a driver was still pleading his innocence was wrong.

He said Jawaid Akhtar, of Wallace Street, Halifax, had to pay £190 to get his car back.

Mr Akhtar works for GW Taxis, Sowerby Bridge, which has a contract with the Jing Jing restaurant on Wharf Street.

As a private hire driver he is only allowed to collect pre-booked passengers.

He pulled up in his Toyota Avensis intending to take his fare to Pye Nest.

Two people jumped in and requested a lift to Triangle.

Mr Hussain said in such cases the driver contacted his base rather than get into a possible argument and risk of injury.

Mr Akhtar did that and his base said it also had a booking for Triangle from the restaurant and to continue and another driver would collect the Pye Nest job. But his passengers were part of the sting team and Mr Akhtar has had to pay a heavy price.

“It looks like an easy job but it’s a difficult job at night. It’s good practice to try and avoid arguments,” said Mr Hussain. “What happened here was a misunderstanding.”

Mr Akhtar, a 43-year-old father of five, is now awaiting a meeting with licensing officers and hopes to get his livelihood back.

Mr Hussain said taxi drivers were of good character otherwise they wouldn’t get a licence. “Taxi drivers are being driven out of the trade. They are not criminals,” he said.

Calderdale registration and licensing manager Sarah Richardson said several drivers had their badges and vehicle licences suspended with immediate effect and some vehicles were seized.

“The prosecutions brought against licensed drivers when a similar operation was carried out last year do not appear to have been a sufficient deterrent,” she said. “We have to ensure that the safety of the public is not being compromised.

“The operation was successful and welcomed by companies who are following the rules.”