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PROTEST STRIKE SCALED DOWN

A planned strike by taxi drivers in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, was set to go ahead although it will not be as widespread as originally planned.

Aplanned strike by taxi drivers in Kirklees, West Yorkshire, was set to go ahead although it will not be as widespread as originally planned. The joint chairman of the Kirklees Hackney Carriage Association, Akooji Badat, explained the reasons for the planned action: "Drivers and cars are being attacked and windows smashed and lives put in danger. It has happened to me recently and we are all disappointed with the police response." Mr Badat did not believe the ‘poor’ response was a race issue but was more likely to be due to a shortage of time and money. "We want it to be taken more seriously,” he added. "If you are driving a car and a brick comes through the window it is serious. It could be life and death if you swerve." Another issue that concerns the drivers is Kirklees Council's insistence on taxis that are used on school runs being newer than other taxis. Mr Badat commented: "We don't see the need for a different system. If Kirklees wants a different system for that then why can't we use different places for MOT and other vehicle checks, rather than the council ones?"

However, Councillor Martyn Bolt, whose Kirklees Cabinet responsibilities include transport, emphasised that the taxis had to have extra checks if drivers wanted to tender for school taxi contracts. "If you want to work and earn the extra money, your vehicle has to have the extra checks." An upsurge of support for the BNP in the area had also created a degree of upset. This had increased with the election of a BNP Councillor, although Mr Badat acknowledged this was the wish of the electorate: “Councillor David Exley was democratically elected by the public and I have no problem with that. When he was put on a committee which can control licensing and taxi decisions, that is where many of us have a problem. The problem is that we can't join his party." The chairman of Kirklees Licensing Committee, Councillor David Sheard, did not think the strike would achieve anything positive: "It could create bad feeling. I understand they are under a lot of stress at the moment, especially after the death of a driver in Golcar."

Councillor Sheard pointed out that a scheme to log and track all threatening and violent incidents, so they could be dealt with more effectively, had been set up jointly by the drivers, council and police. The contents of the log did not seem to indicate there was a major problem. "I checked it and there had been no reports. We haven't had one report filed. We are trying to work with the drivers but they need to report incidents so we can know where the hot-spots are and can tackle them." A meeting between drivers and Kirklees Council officials has succeeded in reducing the scale of the planned strike. Drivers based in Huddersfield are not to join the action although those in Batley were due to strike from 6 p.m. on Friday 15th September through to 6 a.m. on the following Monday.

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