Struggling taxi drivers ‘must receive more financial help’

Richard Leonard says there are concerns taxi drivers will be forced to cease trading if support isn't put in place.

Struggling taxi drivers ‘must receive more financial help’ STV News

Scottish Labour has demanded the Scottish and UK Governments do more to help taxi drivers who have been left struggling during the coronavirus pandemic.

The party’s leader Richard Leonard said if additional support measures are not introduced there are concerns “many in the industry will be forced to cease trading”.

Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has been urged to follow the example of Northern Ireland, where taxi drivers can get a £1500 grant as part of a £19m support fund.

Leonard has also written to UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak, pointing out many cabbies have been unable to access financial support “simply because they do not have rateable premises or operate business bank accounts”.

The Scottish Labour leader said: “As a result, many have fallen into debt and face the prospect of losing their livelihoods unless rules governing existing schemes are changed to accommodate them – or new tailored support packages are developed to help sustain this industry and these jobs.”

He told Forbes that drivers are “ineligible” for the £500 support payment given to poorer Scots who need to self-isolate.

Leonard said: “Taxi and private hire drivers who have picked up Covid-19 positive patients from hospitals have subsequently been contacted by Test and Protect and told to self-isolate.

“However, because they are not in receipt of Universal Credit or legacy benefits, they are ineligible for the £500 self-isolation support grant.

“Given that they have substantial outgoings including costs for their vehicles, licence and other associated costs, as well as living expenses, they cannot afford to self-isolate as there is so little financial support available to them.”

The calls for more financial aid were backed by Chris Elder, a taxi driver from Dundee.

He said: “Cabbies have been the unsung heroes of this pandemic but have been forgotten about by the Scottish and UK Governments.

“Many of my colleagues placed themselves at real risk earlier this year so we could get desperately ill people to where they needed to be.

“We’d do the same again if it was needed but it’s not right that cabbies are excluded from support going to other businesses.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We fully appreciate just how difficult the pandemic has been for taxi drivers and their families.

“We welcome the extension of the self-employed income support scheme so drivers can obtain 80% of previous earnings and the Economy Secretary has written to the Chancellor calling for this to be extended to the recently self-employed.

“We are currently considering further support for fixed costs pressures on self-employed taxi drivers and others, as well as providing the new strategic framework business fund.

“Throughout this unprecedented economic crisis we have listened to businesses and acted quickly to offer support, which now exceeds £2.3bn.”

A Treasury spokesman said: “We understand that taxi drivers are struggling as a result of the pandemic, which is why we have given them access to a wide range of support.

“This includes the UK Government’s Self Employment Income Support Scheme, which is one of the most generous in the world, as well as income tax deferrals and mortgage holidays.

“We have also given the Scottish Government an additional £8.2bn to cope with the pressures of the pandemic, which they can use to support workers, business and individuals as they see fit.” 

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