GLASGOW cabbies are making a desperate plea for additional support as they warn the 10pm hospitality curfew could drive the trade in Glasgow “into the ground”. 

Drivers say the recent tightening of restrictions has led them to lose out on business from the night-time economy, which they argue was fragile even before the curfew was imposed. 

The chairman of Glasgow Cab Section, Calum Anderson, has described the impact of the 10pm rule on the trade as an “external crisis”, as he reports drivers working extended hours in a bid to make ends meet. 

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He said: “Sadly the recent tightening of restrictions, as a result of rising coronavirus infections, has destroyed any semblance of the fragile recovery the taxi trade was experiencing. 

“I cannot overstate the existential crisis weighing on our trade.

“There were green shoots of recovery but this is basically just a step back – a 10pm curfew means there is essentially now no nightshift for our cabbies.
“I think the public in general have a choice to make and it’s a case of ‘use us or lose us’ – because the running cost of taxis is substantial.”

Cabbies are pleading for an extension of licenses that are due to expire, a suspension of vehicle testing with the exemption of MOTs and are asking for operators to be given the option to put licensed vehicles off the road if they wish to do so. 

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Glasgow driver Steven Grant warned the impact could be “fatal” if support isn’t provided as he reported a 70% loss of earnings before the curfew was introduced.
He said: “There has already been a catastrophic drop in earnings with the lockdown. Ten o’clock is an early shutdown which might even deter people to come out all together to socialise. 

“The loss of footfall to the city centre is just going to drop our earnings even further. Currently, around 70% of our normal earnings have gone without including the curfew. We’re struggling to cover our bills as it is. 

“We’ve got to get our cabs tested and tests usually are costly and stringent compared to an MOT test. The bill for a test alone comes to £100, then you’ve got cab insurance and road tax. 

“These are all tough bills to be meeting in this climate. The loss of a any sign of a re-evolving night-time economy will be damaging for us. It’s an absolute crisis for the trade and there’s no doubt about it. 

“Without proper support, it will be fatal for our trade. I know there is already a drop in numbers with drivers unable to meet ends meet.”

With low turnover, drivers are fearful the UK Government’s new Winter Economy Plan still won’t cover the cost of bills as it only tops up on 20% of average monthly profits compared to 80% 

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Glasgow driver Owen Grain said: “It’s catastrophic for us. Currently we’ve only got X-amount of work and if you condense that into a short period of time you’ll have 1500 drivers all trying to get that work and you’ll have only so many hours that you can do it in. 

“There’s already a struggle. At least in the first lockdown we had some help – we had access to mortgage holidays and taxi loan holidays. But that’s not happening this time so we’ve got massively reduced incomes, but no real help.

“If this 20% is what we think its going to be, we can’t live on it.

“The pandemic has decimated us. It has been horrendous and it has impacted all of us as drivers. We’re all self employed, struggling and trying to put food on the table for our family. 

“There have been so many drivers handing their keys in and walking away from the trade. You can’t run a taxi without making enough money to pay all of your costs. You’ve got several hundred pounds a week to make before you can make any sort of profit. 

“There are things that the council could be doing to help us survive this – not to help us make money, but to help us survive. 

“I just can’t see myself getting through the winter. I don’t know how I’m going to pay my mortgage or my taxi. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”

Glasgow Times:

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said Glasgow City Council was “best placed” for taking the local circumstances into account. 

She said: “The Scottish Government appreciates that taxi and private hire cars provide a valuable service to both residents of and visitors to Scotland

"The day to day responsibility for the licensing of taxis and private hire cars is devolved to local authorities and any decision regarding the practical operation of the licensing regime for taxis and private hire cars and their drivers is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.

“Local authorities are best placed to take local circumstances into account in the decision-making process and are directly accountable to the communities they serve.

“Throughout this unprecedented economic crisis we have listened to businesses and acted quickly to offer support, which now exceeds £2.3 billion. We would encourage eligible self-employed taxi drivers to apply to the UK Government’s self-employed scheme.

“Taxi companies who have staff on furlough can continue to claim through the Job Retention Scheme until October 31, after which the new Job Support Scheme will be in place.”

A Glasgow City Council spokeswoman said: “We fully appreciate the impacts of the Covid-19 crisis and we aim to be as flexible as possible during these challenging times.

"We continue to keep all policies under review and will work with the trade to achieve an appropriate balance between protecting public safety and supporting the taxi and private hire trade.”