Edinburgh taxi drivers welcome handout but say more needs to be done to help owner operators

Taxi drivers have welcomed a top up payment of £1000, but Union says more support is needed after collapse of the trade during pandemic.

Thursday, 15th April 2021, 12:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 15th April 2021, 1:20 pm

Taxi and private hire drivers across the Capital have welcomed more funding from today, as top-up payments of £1,000 per driver will be distributed by the city council.

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Union bosses welcomed the additional funding provided from the ‘Edinburgh Discretionary Business Support Fund’, amounting to just under £4.4 million for the sector in Edinburgh.

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Drivers fund will provide discretionary top up payment
Drivers fund will provide discretionary top up payment

But they issued a fresh call for a £10,000 grant for taxi owners and demanded that local authorities suspend licensing fees, after it was recently announced they would be increased.

The payment will go to those who received the initial grants of £1,500 through the ‘Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund’.

The fund was open between 25 January and 25 March 2021 and has paid out just over £6.5 million to 4,391 taxi and private hire drivers.

Unite claims that a third of drivers across the country have missed out on help, after not applying for the grant.

Willie Thomson, Unite industrial officer, said: “Unite welcomes this increased financial support by City of Edinburgh Council. The extra money is welcome relief for drivers who have struggled for over a year now to make ends meet alongside the well documented difficulties in accessing government support. Local authorities across Scotland must continue to support a trade in crisis. Far more needs to be done to support the taxi trade including the suspension of license fees. We need a national solution here and the Scottish Government must urgently act to financially support operators and drivers through this Covid crisis.

Andy Taylor a city cabbie said: “We are grateful for any help right now, because trade is the worse it has been with schools shut just now. In a 60 hour week I take home maybe £400, enough to cover the costs so I’m not making anything. I’m six months behind on my business loan payments. In no way do I want to complain, but I am so far behind and in debt, this money will make little difference. What we need is real cash support on a par with that given to other small business owners. Money from the council is welcome but it doesn’t make up for lack of national support.”

Councillor Kate Campbell, Housing, Homelessness and Fair Work Convener, said: "It’s been a really difficult time for so many businesses and self-employed people. We know that taxi and private hire drivers have been severely impacted so we’re using the discretionary grant fund to top up the Taxi and Private Hire Driver Support Fund.

Taxis and private hire drivers are a crucial part of our city’s transport infrastructure, making our city accessible to many and supporting our economy.

We’ve taken the decision to ring-fence this money to make sure that drivers, 90% of whom are self-employed, have a bit of extra support to help them get through this period until we start to see the easing of more restrictions from 26 April.

“This year has been incredibly difficult for all businesses in our city, and we know how hard people have had to work to keep going. We want to do everything we can help.”

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