Concerned taxi drivers claim the streets of Chesterfield are becoming overrun with “cowboy” drivers because they believe council rules are not being properly enforced.
Drivers Eric Needham and Paul Mann and private hire operator Ann Dickens have raised concerns with Chesterfield Borough Council that there are no limits on the rising number of cabbies in the town and drivers are working freely without regular checks on vehicles and certificates or enforcement over parking.
Hackney driver Mr Needham said: “Too many cowboys are operating. Enforcement and regulations are not strong enough to make them go away while good drivers following rules are not free to do their jobs properly. The council is allowing people to operate without properly enforcing regulations and there have been disputes between the mounting number of drivers including fighting at the railway station.”
Private hire driver Mr Mann argued Corporation Street is repeatedly blocked with drivers and during one parking dispute he said he was threatened. He claims there are over 140 taxis operating in Chesterfield when there should realistically only be about 100.
Mr Needham and Mr Mann fear the council is handing out too many taxi badges and plates to prospective cabbies while rates are being increased when other regions are keeping them down. Mr Needham added: “There is a concern the council is only interested in getting money for badges and plates.”
They are worried some drivers are taking wheelchair passengers when they do not have the right certification. Ann, of Central Cars, feels the council has let things get out of control and with Mr Needham and Mr Mann they want to address issues through the council’s Taxi Liaison Committee.
Chesterfield Borough Council said it takes its role seriously and a maximum number of Hackney carriages has been set at 110 and the existing 152 drivers is being reduced by a decision not to issue new licences. Councillor Chris Ludlow, environment chief, explained the council ensures vehicles are roadworthy and it carries out enforcement and added that the council does not make money for granting licences. She also argued fees and charges for drivers remain competitive.
Cllr Ludlow said: “In 2010, the council set the maximum number of hackney carriages to 110. At the time there were 182 hackney carriages in the borough, this number is now 152 as no new licences have been granted when existing drivers have given up licenses or where a licence has been revoked. We don’t have powers to limit the number of private hire vehicles.”
She said vehicles are tested every six months and regular enforcement checks are made. Cllr Ludlow added to become licensed, drivers take a test, have a CRB check, a test of law and policy and need a licence with fewer than nine points. She said fees and charges must remain competitive with other councils and still do not make up running costs.
Those with concerns can report them to the council on (01246) 345345.