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Express & Star comment: Wolverhampton council has to sort out taxi mess

By Star Comment | Opinions | Published:

There appears to be no end in sight to the controversy over Wolverhampton council's system of handing out taxi licences.

The cash-strapped authority charges just £69 for a cab licence, making it one of the cheapest places in the country to get one.

Critics also say the test includes no local knowledge element, enabling drivers from all over the country to pass in Wolverhampton.

Council bosses are adamant that the city's tests are as stringent as they come, but serious questions remain over whether the checks that are in place are strong enough.

One thing that is certain, is that the council is not making any friends over what appears to be a fairly blatant attempt to corner the market.

Wolverhampton has given out more than 9,000 licences this year, compared to less than 1,000 in 2015.

But while the council counts up the profits, there have been consequences.

Later this month fed up cab drivers will hold a go-slow protest through the city, arguing that the surge in the number of drivers is forcing them to work all hours God sends in order to make a living.

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It is also worrying that many licences are held by drivers operating miles away from Wolverhampton.

A recent E&S investigation showed there were cabbies with paperwork issued in the city driving in places such as Stockport, Weymouth and Cambridge.

It is hard to see how the city council is able to regulate drivers who are working such vast distances away from the West Midlands.

Underpinning all of this, is the key issue of communication.

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Council bosses do not overly interested in listening to the complaints from the cab drivers, and instead have branded their protest 'outrageous'.

Equally, it is clear that the authority has little time for the issues raised by other local authorities.

There is no doubt that Wolverhampton council has made a fantastic effort to become more commercially viable in the face of years of central government budget cuts.

But there needs to be a full and frank discussion about how it distributes cab licences.

A resolution that is both viable and suitable for all parties must be found as a matter of urgency.

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