East Devon District Council has identified a reduction in the number of licensed taxi drivers over the past four years, which can be attributed to a variety of factors including the decision by a number of taxi drivers each year to retire when the annual renewal of their licences is due. This decline has been counter balanced by increasing numbers over the same period of new private hire drivers, who hold a different licence to taxi drivers who can be hired from taxi ranks.
The medical requirement for professional drivers supports council licensing standards by ensuring that taxi drivers are fit to carry the public. East Devon District Council understands that employment through driving for a living can be a more sedentary profession and that there may be challenges in working conditions and unsociable hours.
East Devon is supporting its local taxi and private hire trade by promoting the benefits of exercise and healthier lifestyles. This includes voluntary opportunities for the trade to take up discounted corporate gym memberships locally. East Devon drivers appear to recognise the possible benefits of these recommendations, as the council has received positive responses from them, which is encouraging. An initiative is being organised with local gyms in East Devon in March, which will offer temporary membership for the taxi and private hire trade through a reduced cost and membership promotion.
Cllr Paul Jarvis, East Devon’s Chair of Licensing and Enforcement, is working closely with the district’s taxi drivers trade association, to promote the importance of drivers wellbeing and to ensure that work is being carried out to help them improve their health:
“Due to the rural nature of much of the district our taxi drivers provide a vital transport link for many people. However, the sedentary nature of their work, stressful working conditions, and poor dietary habits, can cause health issues such as weight gain and musculoskeletal problems, which impacts on their ability to work.
We take the health and welfare of drivers very seriously and believe it is important to support these drivers. We want to ensure that they are healthy and able to provide an important service without compromising their well-being.
As Chair of Licensing I have attended the taxi drivers own trade association meeting, as well as a joint one that we hold at the council with the trade. At both meetings we have made it clear that we value them and are here to assist in any way that we can.
In July we started the “No excuse for abuse” campaign, letting the public know that we would not tolerate any form of abuse towards our licensed drivers. This year, we have consulted with the Exmouth Taxi Association about ways that we could help with their wellbeing.
We are promoting the benefits of exercise and healthier lifestyle choices, such as gym membership, which mirrors the efforts being made by other local authorities. While the trade appreciates our efforts, this work is by no means unique to the Taxi Association, as East Devon District Council is actively promoting the health and wellbeing of its residents wherever we can in our district.”