Financial lifeline for struggling Brighton and Hove cabbies

Struggling cabbies could be handed a £500,000 financial lifeline by Brighton and Hove City Council, if the three party leaders approve the latest round of covid grants.

Thursday, 4th February 2021, 11:48 am
Brighton Station taxi rank

And a further £150,000 could bring some relief to nurseries and childminders, if the three senior councillors back the plan at an urgent meeting today (Thursday February 4).

The taxi and private hire trade’s plea for help was reported at the weekend, along with news that three local cabbies had died from the coronavirus.

A last-minute report to the council’s Policy and Resources Urgency Sub-Committee said: “The impact of the covid-19 pandemic is being felt by the city’s private licenced private hire and hackney carriage (taxi) drivers.

“With pubs, bars, venues (and) indoor entertainment closed, and people advised to stay at home, drivers have experienced a significant loss in turnover while still having to cover key business costs.

“As a public-facing service, licensed taxi drivers are considered to be in a high-risk group.

“A recent report by the Office for National Statistics showed that covid-19 death rates among people in jobs such as taxi driving were up to three times higher than the national average.

“Licensed taxi drivers play an important role within the city and are making a significant contribution to the vaccination programme by, for example, transporting residents to their appointments.

“The proposal is for the negative impact on taxi drivers to be recognised with a specific grant award.

“The grant will be in relation to the fixed business costs that drivers incur for their taxi licence, insurance, vehicle maintenance and covid-19 safety measures in this period.

“The proposal is for a one-off payment, on application, of between £250 and £400 to private hire and hackney carriage drivers licensed in Brighton and Hove.

“There are approximately 1,300 licensed private hire taxis in the city. The estimated cost of this award is between £325,000 and £520,000.”

The report added: “Early years and wrap-around childcare providers were not eligible under the criteria for the period (Thursday) 5 November to (Tuesday) 1 December 2020 because they were permitted to be open for business during that period.

“The government’s lockdown guidance for early years and childcare settings is that from (Tuesday) 5 January.

Early years settings (including nurseries and childminders) remain open.

Childminders and wrap-around childcare providers caring for school-age children (including reception children) can only continue to open only for vulnerable children and children of critical workers.

“These services play a vital role in the local economy, for example, by enabling key workers to work. However, wrap-around providers in particular have been severely impacted by the coronavirus restrictions.

“It is therefore recommended that awards are made based on these circumstances for the period (Tuesday) 5 January to (Monday) 15 February 2021.

“For this six-week period, it is proposed that there are two levels of payment – £3,000 for providers with specific business premises and high fixed costs and £750 for licenced providers without specific business premises but with other fixed costs.

“The total cost of awards for this period is estimated to be £60,000 to £75,000, representing 45 to 65 awards of grants to these businesses.

“Additional payments to these businesses are proposed for the six-week period from (Tuesday) 16 February to (Monday) 29 March if further lockdown or tier restrictions are imposed.

“The suggested payments for this period would be a further £3,000 and £750 respectively.

“The total costs of awards for this period is estimated to be £60,000 to £75,000, representing 45 to 65 awards to business.”

By the end of last week, the council had paid grants totalling more than £25 million to businesses that had closed or faced other restrictions because of the pandemic.

The latest batch of grants, including any payments to cabbies and nurseries, is expected to amount to £8.4 million.

The grants are funded by the government which has set up a number of schemes, each with different rules and conditions.