Dozens fewer taxi and private hire vehicles in Warwickshire

Warwickshire residents have dozens fewer taxi and private hire vehicles to choose from than they did before the pandemic, figures suggest.

A staff member walks through unused black cabs parked in a large area of farmland in Epping Forest, which is being rented by GB Taxi Services to store their large fleet of London taxis that are no longer being used due to a severe drop in demand as coronavirus restrictions continue to reduce travel and office working.

Warwickshire residents have dozens fewer taxi and private hire vehicles to choose from than they did before the pandemic, figures suggest.

The National Private Hire and Taxi Association said the huge drop in the number of licensed vehicles across England was because of the "sheer absence" of any financial support from Government for the industry.

Department for Transport figures show 1,105 vehicles were licensed to operate in Warwickshire at the end of March.

Of those, 718 were traditional taxis which can be hailed from the street, while 387 were private hire vehicles, such as those available through Uber, which need to be pre-booked.

The figure was down from 1,167 the year before, when there were 746 taxis and 421 vehicles for private hire.

Across England, the number of licensed vehicles decreased from 298,800 to 251,100 over the year – a fall of 16%.

During both periods, taxis made up around a quarter of all vehicles.

The NPHTA said many of its members have left the industry in the last year, with a lot of them moving to delivery driving.

David Lawrie, director of the NPHTA, added: "Due to the sheer absence of any financial support for the taxi and private hire industry, many have had to go on to benefits, many have had to find alternative work in order to keep a roof over their heads and feed their families.

"They have felt abandoned, unappreciated, unsupported, kicked into the long grass, and forgotten about completely."

He called on the Government to offer more targeted financial support while the trade is "clutching at straws" to keep going.

The DfT figures show there were 4.5 taxis and private hire vehicles for every 1,000 people in England at the end of March – which had fallen from 5.3 in 2020.

At 1.9 per 1,000 people, Warwickshire has a rate much lower than the national average.

GMB, the union for taxi and private hire drivers, said the pandemic has had a "huge effect" on driver numbers.

Mick Rix, GMB national officer, said: "Many drivers struggled to find work during 2020 and the various lockdowns.

'It will take some time for the local markets to get back to the levels of use by customers prior to the pandemic.

"Many drivers have given up and have handed their vehicles and licences in."

GMB said its analysis of operators in November 2020 shows drivers were earning just 20% what they were at the same time the year before.

A Government spokeswoman said: “The Government has announced several measures to support UK businesses through the pandemic, including the taxi and private hire sector.

“The majority of taxi drivers are self-employed and can apply to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme, and operating companies are eligible for local council grants.”