National taxi union backs Wakefield drivers' plea for help and says industry has been treated 'disgustingly' during Covid
A national taxi union has lent its support to cabbies in Wakefield, who are campaigning for more financial help during lockdown.
The National Private Hire and Taxi Association (NPHTA) said drivers were suffering "severe" distress from not having enough cash and that, nationally, the industry had been treated in a "disgusting" way.
Most taxi drivers in the Wakefield district have been paid from the government's self-employed grant scheme, which is administered by the local council.
But cabbies say this has only just covered their business costs, such as insurance and road tax, and that the trade needs more help to cover living expenses.
The NPHTA said there was "disparity and confusion from one local authority to another" in how the industry was being supported.
In places like York and Sheffield, drivers have been paid lump sums on top of the self-employed grants.
On Thursday, Wakefield Council defended the way it had administered the support scheme, but said it was looking at "alternative ways to support drivers".
NPHTA director David Lawrie said: "We have been supporting and advising the Wakefield association in this plight, as we find it absolutely disgusting the way the industry has been left out, not just locally but nationally.
"Councils have been given billions to support local businesses. That funding is not, nor was it intended to be used for, just the hospitality sector.
"It is the Additional Restrictions Grant which is to support and assist all businesses within their district that have been forced to close or have been severely impacted by the effects of Covid-19."
Mr Lawrie said it was "vital" that cabbies got more cash if the industry was to survive.
He added: "We have seen many drivers who have indeed died as a result of the virus, but also through financial worries, and the severe mental stresses and strain that is being caused by the lack of support."
In a statement on Thursday in response to two local unions who'd raised the issue, the council's interim service director for economic growth, Jane Brown, said: "Taxi drivers in Wakefield are receiving 80 per cent of their wage through the Self Employed Income Support Scheme.
"This and the furlough scheme has been an important tool to help many businesses and individuals across our district.
"For businesses and individuals who are unable to access funding during the recent pandemic local authorities were allocated discretionary funds in which to support those most in need.
"Taxi drivers who are unable to have their salary funded through the Self Employed Income Support Scheme were able to access the Area Restriction Grant prior to its closure on March 2, 2021.
“The council is currently considering alternative ways to support taxi drivers during this difficult time.”
Local Democracy Reporting Service