10:53AM, Wednesday 18 April 2012
A tirade of abuse rained down on councillors last night after they voted to abolish restrictions on the number of taxi drivers allowed on the ranks.
The four-letter word explosion erupted as furious taxi drivers stormed out of Maidenhead Town Hall last night.
They were angry that Royal Borough councillors had agreed overwhelmingly to grant five new licenses a month to drivers wanting to pick up customers at ranks or in the street without previous pre-booking.
Only 96 drivers across the borough are currently allowed to do this.
The change is bitterly opposed by the existing drivers, who fear their custom being taken by the 950 private hire drivers who were previously restricted to customers who pre-booked their services. Drivers staged a drive-by protest in Windsor and Maidenhead last month when the changes were first proposed.
Councillors agreed to the change despite a 1,400 name petition against the plan and a personal plea by John Page from TSSA (Transport Salaried Staff Association).
He said drivers have worked 20 to 30 years to build up their business and warned councillors: "With more people chasing fares they could now have to work much longer hours just to make the same money."
Drivers who packed the Desborough Suite at the town hall were clearly split between Hackney carriage drivers who do not want to see their traditional territory invaded, and private hire drivers keen to join them on the taxi ranks, all making their views loudly known.
Earlier security staff guarded the entrance to the town hall as taxi drivers demonstrated outside in the lead up to the meeting, although the demonstration stayed good natured.
Some councillors were sympathetic to those who opposed the change. Cllr Kathy Newbound (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green) said: "Sometimes taxis all chasing business is no guarantee of a better service for people. The drivers are worried about a risk to their livelihood."
But Cllr Carwyn Cox (Con, Hurley and Walthams) summed the attitude of most colleagues when he said: "We should 'free up' restrictions so that people who wish to enter a profession can do so. It is a sensible, progressive, modern approach we should be proud of."
The new policy will come into effect on May 1.
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