Blackburn with Darwen faces taxi strike over cost of safety testing

TAXI private hire and taxi drivers in Blackburn with Darwen are set to stage a growing series of strikes ahead of Christmas over the cost of vehicle safety testing.

They are angry at the council’s refusal to contract out checks to private garages rather than insisting that all be done at the council’s Motor Vehicle Service Station (MVSS) at its Davyfield depot.

Conservative councilor and taxi driver Altaf ‘Tiger’ Patel has warned the borough’s board of action after environment boss Jim Smith refused to change the authority’s stance.

The 1,100 cab and private hire car drivers will stage four strikes on Mondays in December unless the testing regime is changed.

On December 5, they will stop operating for three hours from 9 a.m. to noon and the following Monday for five hours from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

On December 19, the strike will last eight hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and if the dispute is still not resolved, the driver will be out all day from Boxing Day on December 26.

Cllr Smith said: “These strikes would be a disgrace and very regrettable. We will continue to speak to the drivers but we cannot compromise on safety.”

Cllr Patel raised the issue of the cost of testing at Blackburn’s Thursday evening meeting with the Darwen Council executive board.

He told Cllr Smith: “As a taxi driver myself, I have received many complaints from my colleagues as to why the council has kept the taxi MoT test in-house unlike some other local towns that have two or three independent approved MoT centers or a mix of municipal and private centres.

“The taxi business is not very profitable in the current climate and Blackburn with Darwen’s MoT test charges are among the highest in Lancashire with this monopoly.

“Having renewed the council’s MVSS contract in August for a further three years, would you please consider reconsidering this decision and allowing other approved MoT centers to test taxis and assist the taxi industry taxi with more choice and faster service?

Cllr Smith replied: “The primary purpose of private hire and carriage licenses is to protect the public and promote public safety and I think it is best to have a test center which will provide a consistent set of standards that the public can trust.

“Seventy percent of vehicles are at least 10 years old and 72% of the fleet fail the first test, suggesting they are not fit to work as taxis in the days leading up to testing.”

Cllr Patel said: “Taxi and private hire drivers are side by side on this. We cannot afford the cost of this testing.”

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