IslingtonTribune

The independent London newspaper

Road to ruin? Lockdown hits black cab business

Taxi driver asks why Government has not used cabbies’ skills in its response to coronavirus

24 April, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

Black cab driver Tony Walker: ‘The government hasn’t even asked us to go out and help the NHS or take deliveries to vulnerable people or anything’

A CABBIE has told how taxi drivers are facing financial ruin in the coronavirus lockdown.

Black cab driver Tony Walker, who lived in Islington for 22 years, said the government should have intervened

“It’s been horrendous,” he said. “There’s never been a time like this. My whole family are all London taxi drivers, going back 50 years, and none of us have been in a cab for five weeks. That’s how bad it is.”

Those who are on the roads are making just £10 a day, leading Unite general secretary Len McCluskey to contact transport secretary Grant Shapps asking for an urgent meeting,

Mr Walker said he had been forced to turn to Universal Credit after the work dried up.

He told the Tribune it was “scandalous” that the government had not turned to the capital’s taxi drivers for help with transport and deliveries.

“Taxis are unique because the driver and passenger are separated. They have their space and we have ours.

“But the government hasn’t even asked us to go out and help the NHS or take deliveries to vulnerable people or anything.

“With our world class knowledge and skills, you would think we would be needed.

Cabbies’ long wait for fares at St Pancras at the start of the crisis [Simon Lamrock]

“Uber has had their licence revoked in London twice, and they are being praised by MPs on social media for helping. It’s scandalous.”

Mr Walker said the situation had got so bad he was digging in to his savings to make ends meet.

“I’m getting £95 a week from Universal Credit. That’s down from at least £100 a day of my usual earnings. I’ve worked for 40 years, in fruit stalls and with paper rounds since I was seven years old. I’ve never taken a handout in my life. Now I’m making decisions over whether to pay bills or eat. It’s a complete scandal.”

He added: “London taxi drivers are the best in the world, and I love what I do. But we have never faced times like this.”

Unite has put forward a six-point plan to government to help the UK’s 82,000 taxi drivers

The union said taxi drivers were keen to play an active part in the national battle against the coronavirus by transporting key workers such as NHS staff to work and patients to non-emergency appointments; as well as shopping trips to supermarkets for the elderly.

In his letter to the transport secretary, Mr McCluskey said lots of drivers simply could not wait for the self-employed payments to arrive in June.

“With most people staying at home the reduction in trade is so severe that taxi driver income, in many instances, does not cover operating costs,” he said.

“Many taxi drivers are already experiencing financial hardship…. Many of our members in the taxi sector are now relying on handouts from the already under pressure food banks.

“Unite’s plan include immediate wage support and emergency payments, and the suspension of running costs such as rental fees.”

A Department for Transport spokesperson said:“We are aware of the issues being faced by the taxi sector and are working to understand the pressures it is facing.

“The Self-employment Income Support Scheme announced by the Chancellor will allow taxi and private hire vehicle drivers to claim a taxable grant worth 80 per cent of their trading profits.

“We have received Mr McCluskey’s letter and will respond in due course.”

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