Lincoln taxi drivers are in uproar after being told by the City of Lincoln Council they will have to pay for a college course or risk not having their licences renewed.
Drivers say letters sent out by the council demanding the completion of a £240 BTEC college course are “unfair” and many would lose earnings to foot the bill for the qualification.
The city council says a policy stating all drivers must have the BTEC qualification will be introduced from March 7.
One Lincoln taxi driver, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Lincolnite: “We all got letters from the city council making us go on a BTEC course at a cost of £240 and over a week off work which will cost me in excess of £700.
“Our office will lose drivers and work, how can they tell us as long time taxi drivers how to do our job?
“I have been a taxi driver for 32 years and there are men and women who have been doing the job a lot longer than me. What do they think they can tell us about driving a taxi?
“If it was free and could be done online fine, but why should we have to pay for the council’s mistake?”
He said the move is in reaction to a child sex abuse scandal uncovered in Rotherham, where more than 1,400 young people were abused – taxi drivers playing a prominent role.
The council says many more health and safety risks have been identified in recent years.
He added: “We are angry about this. It’s all to do with the problems Rotherham council had, all they need to do is bring in the BTEC for new drivers.”
Officers at the council stated that while more than 500 drivers and operators were contacted about the draft policy, only 4% responded.
The driver questioned the consultation however: “We all were sent a 85 page email with the proposal hidden it it that’s why we didn’t respond to it, if they sent it out on its own we would of responded to it.
“I will have to pay for it, there are other drivers that will not pay so they will be out of a job.
“In my opinion it’s a waste of time and money. The only way to make the job safer is to make everyone have a CRB check.”
There are around 470 drivers working in the city, of whom a number have already passed their equivalent NVQ.
The council has said that rather than being a week-long course, the qualification consists of nine modules between two and three hours. Drivers will then have a year to complete it.
From March 7, it will become council policy that all drivers must have the BTEC ‘Introduction to the Role of the Taxi and Private Hire Driver.’
Kevin Barron, Licensing Manager, said: “City of Lincoln Council is committed to ensuring the city’s residents and visitors are able to use a service that conforms to a high standard of service, safety and comfort.
“The new policy takes into account the licensing requirements and experiences of other councils, and introduces extra measures required in terms of training and the qualifications required for drivers.
“The requirement for training will enhance the service provided to the travelling public and also the professional status of drivers. The BTEC certificate is nationally recognised, used by many other authorities and is locally available.
“We invited more than 500 interested parties including drivers and operators to give their views on the draft policy but just over 4% chose to respond. These views were taken into account when a decision on the policy was made.”