Taxi drivers in Rotherham have gone on indefinite strike over new rules forcing them to install CCTV in their vehicles. The policy becomes effective Monday and is one of the key recommendations of the Jay Report which estimated that 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013 after being trafficked by local Asian gangs.
The cost of installation has been cited by the striking drivers as the reason for their action. The town has about 50 Hackney Carriage taxis and 800 private hire vehicles which the council want to ensure retain the confidence of their public users.
Cab operators took action last weekend and protested outside the Town Hall on Monday. They have not said how long the current action will last and are also planning a “slow” drive through the town.
Driver Rajah Khan told the BBC: “It [the new policy] is draconian and punitive. We condemn those people who have been involved in child grooming but do not tar us all with the same brush.”
The new licensing policy also requires drivers to adhere to a dress code, reviews licences and introduces additional background checks.
Karl Battersby, from the council, said: “The starting point of all this is about public confidence in the trade. We are looking at whether people are ‘fit and proper’ to have a license.”
He said the council was meeting again with taxi representatives on Monday and will “encourage them to work with us rather than a situation which causes disruption to the public.”
The Jay Report was published last August and the latest move to screen and control taxi drivers belies the fact that despite the scale of organised child sexual abuse exposed, some on girls as young as nine, only a few arrests have been made. No social workers or police officers have been reprimanded.
A second follow-up report published in February by Louise Casey, commissioned by the then communities secretary, Eric Pickles, found it an uncontested fact that children in Rotherham were “sexually exploited by men who came largely from the Pakistani heritage community” and that not enough was done to acknowledge this, stop it happening, protect children, support victims and apprehend perpetrators.
Two Rotherham taxi drivers who were arrested on suspicion of sexual offences against under-age girls had their licences revoked in April. The men, aged 36 and 37, were bailed after being detained, according to the BBC.
Follow Simon Kent on Twitter: Follow @SunSimonKent or e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org