Sunday, 23 March 2008


This is a photograph of a Mr Stephen Chappell who is a Bournemouth Tory Councillor and Chair of Bournemouth Councils Licensing Board with responsibility for Taxis and private hire vehicles. He is reported to be proud about sending all Bournemouth's 'cabbies' back to school to learn how to be better cabbies. The 'cabbies' were not happy, particularly those with decades of experience!

Mr Chappel has made all his 'cabbies' , regardless of experience, attend eight, two hour classes and read 3 textbooks in order to complete a BTEC in Transporting Passengers by Taxi and Private Hire. The course is funded by local tax payers and so far 700 drivers have taken it, 200 have signed up but 101 still refuse to sign up. These 101 have had their licences taken away by Mr Chappell as a result.

What gems of knowledge does the course provide? One lesson teaches drivers how to greet their passengers and suggests "Hello Mrs Smith, nice to see you again" or if appropriate "Good morning how are you?" Other lessons cover how to talk to passengers while carrying them and to read 'body' language and identify emotions in their passengers. How best to lift a suitcase is taught together with the obligatory 'risk assessment' before doing so.

Taxi drivers are self employed and independent minded but have to be licenced by the local authority who are required to ensure vehicles are inspected, safe and clean and that drivers have CRB checks. I agree with that but this BTEC nonsense for experienced 'cabbies' is just yet another instance of interference by the authorities in peoples lives. I salute the 101 who refused to engage in this nonsense even though it cost them their livelihoods. Would it not have been more sensible to ask experienced 'cabbies' to volunteer for the course but to make it compulsory for all new applicants for a licence?

Read this quote of Mr Chappell and doesn't it sound so familiar to what we hear sometimes from our own Thanet Councillors;

" We are PROUD to be an authority which is LEADING THE WAY by providing our drivers with this training. We have to take FIRM ACTION against those drivers who have not trained".
(They are not 'his' drivers. They are self employed 'businessmen'.)

It seems to me as a 'neutral tinter' that Conservative councillors across the country are as profligate, interfering and 'nanny statish' as our Labour masters. We expect control freakery from Labour, new or otherwise, but not from Conservatives; from them we expect 'common sense'.

The guys from Chauffeur and Central Cars had better look out for Councillor Margaret Sheldrick coming their way with a cap and academic gown on and clutching BTEC books.

What are your views?

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