City of Wolverhampton Council is pleased to announce the end of a long running dispute with private hire taxi drivers.

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An agreement has been reached between the council and Wolverhampton Private Hire Drivers Association (WPHDA) after successful talks.

Last autumn the association organised its members to participate in a go slow protest around Wolverhampton and earlier this year it threatened bigger protests involving drivers from around the country descending on the city.

However, that threat is now removed following talks between the council and WPHDA which have resulted in several changes to the process of awarding new drivers their licence.

The council had previously agreed to a request from the association to set up a private hire drivers focus group to discuss issues causing concern.

The focus group met 4 times and last week the council's Licensing Committee met to formally review the outcome of the group's discussions.

The committee voted to work with the association towards the following shared aims: increasing driver standards, better communication and improving the public perception of private hire drivers.

Councillors also agreed to implement several changes to the test that new drivers must pass before being given a licence.

One of the changes will see a pre test screening of a candidate's ability to speak and understand conversational English. New drivers are already expected to speak English to a required standard, but this will now be checked before the test starts and if a candidate fails they will not need to waste their time sitting through the rest of the four-hour assessment.

Candidates who fail their language test will be signposted to support services to help them improve their English.

Candidates will not be able to retake the test if they fail more than 3 times in any 12 month period.

Other changes include candidates having to complete a mandatory training course on safeguarding and they will also be offered free personal safety training.

Licensing committee chairman Councillor Alan Bolshaw said: "After last autumn's protest and the threat of more action, I'm very pleased to be able to announce that the public will not be inconvenienced by further disruption after we reached an agreement with the private hire trade.

"I would like to thank WPHDA for entering into constructive discussions and contributing to this positive outcome. The professional way in which the WPHDA have conducted themselves is a credit to all private hire drivers

"I fully expect this spirit of working together to continue in the future through the existing private hire trade group meetings."

WPHDA vice chairman Ebrahem Suleman said: "This positive outcome has proven that negotiation is the way forward without having to inconvenience the public.

"The changes we have helped to implement will benefit all drivers and the public too. The assessment that new drivers are required to take is now fit for purpose and I fully endorse it.

"I am particularly pleased that there is a specific conversational English element to the driver test programme."

  • released: Wednesday 19 July, 2017