Mandatory English tests for Ipswich taxi drivers given green light after concerns over discrimination

A taxi at Ipswich Hospital
, picture Andy Abbott

A taxi at Ipswich Hospital , picture Andy Abbott

Plans to introduce mandatory English tests for taxi drivers in Ipswich have been given the green light after concerns that it was “particularly discriminatory in matters of race and disability” have been ironed out.

Ipswich Borough Council last year mooted the plans to introduce the mandatory tests as a means to preventing issues for both passengers and cab drivers.

But in October an equalities panel scrutinising the plans said that the proposal was “unlawful and particularly discriminatory in matters of race and disability.”

In particular, the panel feared that drivers would be refused an interpreter if an investigation for a criminal offence was under way which would be unlawful under the Human Rights Act.

The panel’s report added: “An applicant could have a degree taken in the English language (so much higher than the requirement) but if it was awarded in a non-English speaking country then it would not be recognised.”

The plans would require all taxi drivers to submit evidence of a recognised English qualification such as a GCSE or A-level, NVQ or vocational qualification or taking part in a speaking and listening test as laid out by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

Outlining the need for the tests, the borough council’s report said: “Taxi and private hire drivers meet many different people in the course of their work, some of whom may be intoxicated.

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“An important aspect of communication between the driver and the passenger is that the driver is not often facing the passenger, so body language cannot be seen.

“Drivers often have to deal with complaints from the public with fare disputes, time of arrival, which way to go, multiple drops etc and it is important, for their own safety, that they understand conversations and can respond in a calm manner.”

Now, the borough council has said it has addressed the concerns and would be rolling out the plans in January or February. A council spokesman said: “We are introducing the English tests in the coming weeks to make it easier for drivers and customers to communicate.

“We have addressed some of the concerns of the equalities panel and will now accept qualifications in English taken in any country and will make special arrangements for applicants with speech or reading needs.”