Taxi drivers accuse Adur District Council of ‘playing Russian roulette’ with public safety

Adur District Council has been accused of ‘playing Russian roulette with public safety’ through prohibitive taxi licensing regulations.

Inconsistent and strict guidelines are forcing taxi drivers to modify their vehicles in unsafe ways, according to the chairman of Adur Taxis and Private Hire Trade, Sean Ridley.

DM2010151a.jpg. Adur taxi drivers complain about restrictive licence regulations. Robin Monk, (second from left) and taxi drivers from left, Steve Manville, Sean Ridley and Salah Abdallah. Photo by Derek Martin Photography SUS-200701-134834008

DM2010151a.jpg. Adur taxi drivers complain about restrictive licence regulations. Robin Monk, (second from left) and taxi drivers from left, Steve Manville, Sean Ridley and Salah Abdallah. Photo by Derek Martin Photography SUS-200701-134834008

Drivers are also going to other local authorities to get a licence, under different standards, but returning to Adur to work.

Sean said: “It’s dangerous. Adur is losing control of licensing and taxis in the area. They are playing Russian roulette with public safety in order to pursue their own whims. We will end up with a patchwork quilt of operators with licences based on different standards.”

Sean said window tint restrictions are inconsistent. Guidelines state windows must not restrict ‘all view’ inside the vehicle, with limits ‘at the discretion’ of the individual inspector. This left inspectors having differing ideas of suitability, he added.

Taxi drivers pick cars based on economy and reliability, Sean said. As most offer window tints as standard, drivers must choose a less cost-effective car or modify them at their own cost.

As manufacturers do not offer non-tinted windows, drivers turn to less safe, unregulated alternative window suppliers.

Lancing councillor Robin Monk has resigned from the licensing committee in protest.

He said a lack of communication from the council meant his constituents’ concerns could not be raised and made ‘a farce of being a councillor’.

Mr Monk called for regulations, including whether taxis must have CCTV, to be more consistent and fair.

A council spokesman said regulations had public safety in mind and the most recent guidelines had been agreed after consultation with Sussex Police.

“Taxis are public service vehicles and, as the licensing authority, it is our duty to ensure a high standard of public safety for those using them,” said the spokesman.

“As part of that we regularly review the Adur Taxi Handbook, which acts as a guide for those involved in the trade.

“The most recent handbook, adopted at a public meeting in March after widespread consultation, includes a restriction on vehicles having heavy tinted windows. This was after representation from Sussex Police and others, who were concerned a restricted view of the interior could compromise the protection of vulnerable passengers.

“To minimise the financial impact on vehicle owners, councillors agreed to introduce the conditions on a rolling replacement basis, which means only new and replacement vehicles are required to comply. If new windows need to be fitted, it is the vehicle owner’s responsibility to ensure their vehicle complies with the law.”