UPDATED: Unhappy taxi drivers plan talks with council chiefs over 'Draconian' e-cig licensing conditions (From St Helens Star)
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St Helens taxi drivers set to protest at 'Draconian' e-cig licensing conditions
TAXI drivers called off a town centre rally against what they claim are Draconian licensing conditions.
Private hire and cab drivers intended to drive past St Helens Town Hall on Wednesday morning but cancelled their planned protest after a meeting with Council chiefs to discuss the situation was arranged for next Wednesday afternoon.
Drivers say their livelihood is being put at risk because of what they term a hardline approach.
Hackney cab driver.
Paul Rigby, aged 45, from Rainhill, told the Star: “We are concerned at the way we are discriminated against by the licensing department and use of Draconian licensing conditions placed on drivers.
“This is our chance to prevent further conditions being forced upon us, without proper consultation first taking place.
“If a driver or a passenger is caught with an electronic cig in the cab we get punished under the smoke free regulations and fined £50 for breaking the law which we understand. Yet for a first offence we are put in front of the licensing committee and face being out off the road for one week.
“For a repeat offence a driver recently had his badge taken off him for four weeks.
“We’re all struggling and working longer hours for a lot less than we earned 10 years ago. Yet in Liverpool taxi drivers who are handed a £60 penalty get the fine reduced to £30 if paid promptly.
“We cancelled the protest because a meeting has been called next Wednesday afternoon with the Chief Executive to discuss the situation.”
A Council spokesman said: “The Licensing Committee’s Code of Practice for Hackney carriage and private hire drivers in relation to smoking in their vehicles is quite clear.
“Smoking has been banned since July 2007, while the use of e-cigarettes – or anything that looks like a cigarette – was banned by the committee in April this year.
“E-cigarettes are obviously designed to look like tobacco cigarettes and it would be unfair to expect drivers to start checking exactly what their passengers were smoking if there was a dispute.
“It’s a clear and easy-to-understand policy that should make it easier to enforce the general ‘no smoking’ rule in taxis.
“Drivers who allow their passengers to smoke tobacco or e-cigarettes risk having their licence suspended.
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