Edinburgh cabbies call for urgent cash help as union issues fresh warning over destitute drivers

Cabbie Peter Melville is losing business and falling into heavy debtCabbie Peter Melville is losing business and falling into heavy debt
Cabbie Peter Melville is losing business and falling into heavy debt
Cabbies in Edinburgh have hit out at the council for the ‘pathetic and derisory’ lack of help, amid fresh calls from Union to help destitute drivers.

Andy Taylor, a cabbie in Edinburgh for 20 years, said Edinburgh City Council has not responded to calls for help from drivers since March. The union rep warned that many drivers had packed it in but said for cabbies left struggling, they were “close to the edge”.

Mr Taylor, 54 said: “I came out to work at 10 this morning and haven't had a single fare in over two hours. Many who rented vehicles have walked away but for owners of vehicles like me, it’s not so easy.

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"The pathetic, derisory move from the council to suspend licence fees for a few months is not good enough. I see guys whose mental health is in a bad way, they are facing the reality of huge debts building as we face tiered restrictions throughout the winter. Council staff get access to counselling, we should get that too. We don’t get any other benefits. They need to step up and help us now.”

"After a 6 month payment break I’m now getting calls from finance company asking me when I can start making payments on the vehicle again, but I need to put food on the table so don’t know when I can. We feel the council has neglected us, like they just looked away.”

Mr Taylor took to social media to pen an open letter to Edinburgh public under the Irvine Welsh cabbie name ‘Juicy Terry’.

He wrote: “I feel badly let down by both the UK and Scottish government’s as well as our local council. There is nothing preventing us going to our work - but there is no work out there. No office workers going to their offices, no business travellers going to and from the airports and railway stations and no tourists.

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"We are self-employed, so we don’t receive a regular salary nor are we eligible for the Furlough scheme. Some of us qualified for the UK Government Self-Employed Income Support Scheme but many of my colleagues didn’t. Even those who did qualify, received an amount based on a percentage of their annual profit. This did not take into account the significant costs involved in maintaining a taxi vehicle and keeping it on the road."

Willie Rennie, Regional Officer for Unite issued a fresh call for cash help for the city’s cabbies. “Unite the union represents drivers in all Scotland’s cities and we are seeing a crisis across the sector and a failure of government to provide the vital help required by these workers.

“Many of these workers are facing destitution and severe financial hardship as they are failing through the cracks of the relevant support schemes. This needs to be corrected urgently.

“Taxi cabs provide safe and protected transport and they are vital for many groups, including those with disabilities where other means of transport are not practical. Without immediate and targeted help many workers will not be able to continue in the trade and face growing uncertainty as they attempt to provide for their families.”

"I will need to borrow more to make ends meet”

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Peter Melville, 69, said many drivers who own their vehicle are stung because they don’t qualify for cash help from Government.

"I own my vehicle and had a guy who used to rent from me and pay me every week but he's stopped since February. My takings have dropped by about eighty per cent. I'm averaging about £60 maybe for a ten hour shift. When you count the cost of financing a vehicle, insurance, and all the running costs before I've even turned the wheel, I'd be better off working in McDonalds."

Peter, who lives in Kirkliston, added: "Some have had help with the scheme but that's come to an end now. For those of us set up as ltd co you can't get the help. A lot of drivers are set up that way. There's no end in sight to this crisis. I will keep going but I've already delayed payments on the vehicle a few months, which I still have to pay back. I'll need to borrow more money in the months ahead to make ends meet."

"It just feels like we are the bottom of the pile. Even though, during this crisis we are a lifeline for many, taking them to medical appointments or helping those who are not comfortable going on public transport right now."

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Cllr Catherine Fullerton, Regulatory Convener, said: “There has been regular contact with the trade throughout the pandemic and we recognised the financial pressures on the trade as soon as lockdown began in March. In recognition of this Council took the decision to defer the payment of the taxi and private hire car applications. Further deferment of payment unfortunately isn’t possible as we have to balance this with the cost of operating the licensing service and a decision was taken by the council at its Policy and Sustainability Committee in August to that affect.

“The taxi examination service was also suspended when lockdown began and from 31 March the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) granted a six month exemption from MOT testing. This was conditional on vehicles being kept in a roadworthy condition with drivers potentially being prosecuted if found to be driving an unsafe vehicle.

“In July we were able to reopen the taxi examination centre and have increased the testing capacity by over a third to make sure that all vehicles that missed their test are offered one so they are able to continue to operate.”

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