Nottingham taxi drivers said they feel humiliated after being handed a £200 grant by the city council to help with the effects of Covid-19.
They said the grant comes at a time when the local authority has forced them to buy low-emission vehicles in order to remain in the trade.
Drivers had to take out loans to buy the new cars, which can cost between £36,000 to £60,000, a sum which one driver described as being like “a second mortgage”.
Drivers have branded the £200 grant “a joke” with one Hackney driver claiming the cash will only cover his servicing costs.
But the city council said that suggesting drivers had been unfairly treated is incorrect and the additional cash is not to replace lost income.
The local authority said if more money was put aside for taxi drivers then it would have left “not a single penny” to support other Nottingham businesses affected by the pandemic including hospitality and retail.
Nottingham City Council is due to receive an extra £1.8m from Government to help businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
It is down to the local authority to decide where the money will be spent, with taxi drivers able to apply for £200.
Victoria Market traders and similar traders affected by Covid lockdowns will be able to apply for £17,350.
Employment and skills organisations can apply for £20,000 while independent retailers opening a new city centre business can apply for £5,000.
This is to help with the number of vacant units around the half-demolished Broadmarsh shopping centre.
There will also be a new business start-up fund of £2,500.
This additional funding is on top of approximately £150m of grant funding distributed already to businesses for Covid-19 support.
The grants will be distributed to businesses via an open grant application and were approved at a council’s Executive Board meeting on Tuesday, October 19.
Taxi drivers said in total they had received ‘just £600’ from the local authority since the start of the pandemic.
They argue this is much lower than other local authorities that have handed out grants of more than £1,000 to struggling taxi drivers.
The council’s Executive Board did not mention the concerns made by taxi drivers during the meeting.
Cllr David Mellen, leader of Nottingham City Council, said: “We know this funding, and all funding, made available does not address every issue we have encountered.
“We are lucky in Nottingham to have so many exciting and vibrant businesses and the council stands by you in building a stronger economy post Covid.”
Parmjit Purwaha, 63, has been a Hackney taxi driver for the last 21 years and told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It is a humiliation compared to other councils. I feel like we are always being let down.
“It will not even pay for more than three months of electric for my car. We would stand here for two to three hours for just one job when we were in lockdown.”
Abdul Majeed, 66, who has been a Hackney taxi driver for 34 years, added: “What can you buy with that? It might pay for 600 to 700 miles of diesel and that is it.”
Mohammed Zubair, 52, who has served on the ranks since 1995, said money should have been put aside to pay for drivers’ MOT or insurance.
“It is a joke especially when we have spent that much money on new cars, and we are struggling for work.
“Instead of helping us like other councils do they give us £200.
“I carry on because what else can I do? I have been doing this a long time and where am I going to go now? The money will just pay for servicing.”
Chander Sood, 62, who has been a taxi driver for 30 years, added: “It is a humiliation. What can you do with £200? In the last two years we have had to buy the new low-emission vehicles and they are not cheap.
“We were 80 per cent down on business during Covid.”
Wasim Amin, chairman of Nottingham Licensed Taxi Owners and Drivers Association, representing around 200 taxi drivers, said any help from local government is appreciated.
But he felt the £200 proposal had put drivers “at the bottom of the pecking order as always.”
Councillor Rebecca Langton, Portfolio Holder for Skills, Growth and Economic Development at Nottingham City Council, defended the council’s decision.
She said: “We completely understand how hard the past 18 months have been for all businesses and self-employed people.
“However, to suggest that taxi drivers have been unfairly treated by the council over supplementary grants is incorrect.
“In Nottingham, we received a pot of money from Central Government – the Discretionary Grant scheme – which we were asked to distribute among all local businesses.
“This was never supposed to replace lost income or act as a wage supplement for taxi drivers. The Government compensated individuals directly through its self-employed support programme.
“Instead, Discretionary Grant funding is intended to help with additional Covid-related costs, which for taxi drivers could include things like screens in vehicles and PPE.
“Proportionally-speaking, taxi drivers in Nottingham have received a significant chunk of this discretionary money – around £1million in total.
“We have 2,500 licensed drivers in the city meaning we could never provide the individual level of financial support offered by a small number of neighbouring districts.
“Doing so would have left not a single penny to support other Nottingham businesses also affected by the pandemic, including hospitality and retail.
“However, we made an initial payment of £400 followed by another of £200 more recently. There is no requirement to pay taxi drivers anything out of the Discretionary Grant scheme and, indeed, many councils have chosen not to. We felt differently.
“Our research shows the average amount each driver received nationally was £500, meaning taxi drivers in Nottingham had more than most around the country at £600 each. It would be disingenuous for the trade to give the public the impression that they have been short-changed by the council.”