Councillor is '˜sorry' for '˜insult' to Chichester drivers

Private hire car drivers were up in arms this week over an '˜insulting' comment from the chairman of the licensing committee.

Chichester District Council voted on new fees for private hire car drivers at the meeting.
Chichester District Council voted on new fees for private hire car drivers at the meeting.

Cllr John Ridd has said he is ‘terribly sorry’ for any offence taken at his remark that drivers are ‘perhaps not the most well-to-do in our society’.

“My statement was intended to be entirely supportive of drivers and to recognise the valuable service that our taxi drivers provide and to note that due to the impact of increases, fees should not be changed without full and thoughtful consideration of comments from drivers themselves as to the potential impact upon their income,” said Mr Ridd.

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The councillor received at least two letters this week to express anger at the statement, which appeared in last week’s Observer.

Driver Abigail Exelby wrote that the opinion was ‘highly disrespectful’ and asked the councillor for a formal apology in this paper.

“Many of my colleagues have had successful careers, and a high standard of education. We are in fact highly professional, and regarded highly by our customers.

“In ten years of being within this profession, I have never been so offended.”

The letter concluded that ‘from a councillor and a civil servant, the opinion, and statement is unacceptable’.

Another letter from Starline driver David Harwood seconded the objections raised, adding that the councillor had joined the trap of other politicians who ‘run down their voters’.

Cllr Ridd said there was ‘absolutely 100 per cent no offence meant’ by his words at the start of the meeting to vote on new rates for drivers’ licence fees.

An increase of 33 per cent passed by the committee was branded ‘extortionate’ by Starline Minicabs manager Malcolm Cannon.

The quote from Mr Ridd, as printed in the Observer, read: “When it comes to fees, we are talking about people’s livelihoods, and perhaps not the most well-to-do in our society, but hard-working people, for whom every penny counts...we are concerned that the service does continue, we hope, without disadvantaging any members.”

In a formal statement this week, Mr Ridd said: “I am very sorry if people have misinterpreted what I said at the meeting. Only elements of my introduction of the item at committee were reproduced within the article that was printed and the context of my concerns about the potential impact of increasing costs of all types on drivers was not included.”

Read the original report here.

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