A taxi driver waves a Union flag as he stands on his cab in the middle of a static protest in Parliament Square on February 11, 2019 in London, England. The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain’s United Private Hire drivers have gathered outside the Transport for London headquarters protesting at the introduction of congestion charges for minicabs. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
LONDON mayor Sadiq Khan’s decision to introduce the Congestion Charge for minicabs does “serious harm” to ethnic minority drivers, the High Court heard on Wednesday (10).
Khan’s decision to remove minicabs’ exemption from the £11.50 daily fee came into effect in April and the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain argues that it indirectly discriminates against a 94 per cent BAME workforce.
The union said that 88 per cent of London’s traditional black cab drivers were white and remained exempt from the charge.
It also pointed out that women, who are more likely to work part-time, were disproportionately affected, and disabled passengers would be adversely affected by a reduction in the number of available minicabs.
Ben Collins QC, representing the union, said: “Drivers are driven out of business or required to work hours which impact on their family, well-being and potentially health.
“Disabled passengers have their ability to travel to central London significantly affected.
“The question for the court is whether the removal of the exemption is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.”
He noted that 71 per cent of minicab drivers affected lived in the most deprived areas of London.
Collins said: “Not only do that large proportion of them live in deprived areas, but their earnings are typically low.
“The mean annual earnings of a drive is £28,000 gross, that is less than £23,000 net.”
Lawyers for the London mayor and Transport for London said the removal of the exemption was an important step to reduce road congestion and traffic within the Congestion Charge zone without reducing the number of wheelchair-accessible passenger transport vehicles.
A spokesperson for Khan said: “The number of private hire vehicles entering the Congestion Charge zone has increased from 4,000 a day when the Congestion Charge first came into operation to more than 18,000 before the exemption was removed.
“We can’t ignore the damaging impact this has on congestion and increasing air pollution.”