Friday, 23 July 2010

Action needed on private hire taxi safety

At lunchtime yesterday I attended a memorial on Broad Street for the murdered taxi driver Mohammed Arshad. It was one of a series of events held across Birmingham in which taxi drivers had a minutes silence on the first anniversary of his death.

Mr Arshad’s murder highlighted the risks for drivers in the private hire taxi business. Yet one year on there has been a lack of progress from the city council in minimising those risks. The production of a pocket size Drive Safety Pack with personal safety advice is to be welcomed, but it is not much of a deterrent to those who recognise that private hire drivers are vulnerable to attack.
At a packed meeting in the Council House last year drivers called for new protective measures including security cameras, safety screens, convex mirrors, a police hotline and a city-wide blacklist of violent customers. City council head of licensing Pete Barrow said at the meeting that such measures could introduced by the licensing committee if the political will was there to do so. But so far the council has dragged its feet. The drivers have offered to work with the council to help reduce the costs of the introduction of new safety measures, but their offer has not been seriously taken up.

I don’t want to be attending memorials for murdered taxi drivers. But with the recession starting to bite, and more people coming into the private hire business, my worry is that this is exactly what I will be doing if the council does not take the health and safety of private hire taxi drivers more seriously.