Cambridge taxi drivers threaten legal action over mandatory in-car CCTV demand

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Cambridge taxi drivers say they could take legal action against plans for mandatory in-car CCTV.

Cambridge city council is demanding all taxis and private hire vehicles should be fitted with CCTV from April 1 next year. The council said it would not grant licences unless drivers complied, citing the need for improved passenger and driver safety as the reason for the decision.

Ahmed Karaahmed, the chairman of Cambridge City Licensed Taxis, said the city council was creating an extra expense for drivers when they were already struggling. He said he was considering taking the council to court over the move.

He said: “The taxi trade is trying to recover from long lasting Covid until now, with no profit. Next year will be another challenging year for our business, and winter will be tough. Cambridge City Council is creating an extra expense for the taxi trade.”

He said other authorities that had implemented similar policies had paid for the cameras. He also argued that not being able to turn off the cameras when the taxi was being driven for private use was a “privacy risk”.

The authority had planned to require all taxis to have CCTV by April 2022, but this was not delayed as an approved supplier for the cameras could not be found during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But drivers now say that while they support the safety aims, they cannot afford the cost to buy and install them.

In a report presented to the city council’s licensing committee, the estimated costs for a single-camera system to be £75-100, and £100-125 for a two-camera system. A single-camera system and panic button is estimated to cost £320, and to cost £500 for a two-camera system with two panic buttons.

While regular taxis are expected to only need one camera, an eight-seater MPV could require four cameras.

One wheelchair-accessible taxi driver o told councillors that he could not afford the cameras and feared the city would lose more accessible vehicles due to the increased cost. He said: “April is way too early to bring CCTV in. As a driver, I cannot afford it and that will put a question mark on whether I will continue doing my job, or will I just move on and try to do something else.”

Cllr Iva Divkovic asked council officers if they had looked into the possibility of the city council subsidising the cost. Officers explained that if the city council did subsidise the money would have to come from the general fund and would therefore need to be a budget bid for it.

They added that they would look into it, but “would not hold up much hope” that internal funding could be found.