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Councillors should have better priorities than smoking taxi drivers
AS A rule, Kendal Town Council is not prone to massive controversy.
Its members are tasked with important but relatively low-level civic responsibilities like Kendal in Bloom, and allotments among others.
All its members are elected and, as far as I can see, on the occasions that I’ve reported from its meetings, they’re a well-intentioned bunch who clearly care deeply about municipal matters affecting the area.
Indeed, Clare Feeney-Johnson, the Lib Dem councillor and former Mayor, has always seemed level-headed and well-meaning.
Similiarly, Coun Sylvia Emmott was probably born to be Mayor. A gentle, well-mannered civic dignitary, who clearly has Kendal’s best interests as her priority.
Which makes their recent criticism of the town’s taxi drivers all the more unnecessarily confrontational.
Their view that a few local taxis drivers could create a ‘negative first impression’ is concerning when it appears to be based on a subjective point of view rather than any hard evidence.
They believe that by parking on the town’s main street and chatting among themselves – some of them smoking – the taxi drivers may create a bad impression of Kendal to some visitors.
In my view, there are better targets for the two councillors to aim at.
Surely visitors to Kendal are far more likely to hail from larger towns and cities where taxi ranks in town centres are the norm?
Last summer, I had reason to talk to a couple of taxi drivers and found them pleasant and a good advert for the town.
Commercially, taxis need to be in the town centre where their customers are and where their work is more likely to be profitable.
And a significant big bugbear among the self-employed is a perceived interference by the public sector in its affairs.
After all, councils are not institutions many necessarily associate with commercial nous or turning a profit.
The town’s motto is ‘’pannus mihi panis’ or wool is my bread – and in this day and age, the simple fact is that fares are the bread of taxi drivers.
They do a great job for older people or those with mobility problems who would not fancy a downhill hike to Kendal Bus Station on unsteady feet.
And let’s not forget that they sometimes have to endure horrendous episodes at 'kicking out' time at 3am on a Saturday.
In short, being a taxi driver is a hard job that doesn’t need to be made any harder by elected institutions.
And in terms of tourists having first impressions of Kendal, surely visitors are far more likely to be pre-occupied with how much they have been charged for car parking and where the public toilets are?
Surely these are issues that are more worthy of intervention?
However, both councillors have indirectly touched on one crucial point – the so-called ‘pedestrianisation’ of Stricklandgate.
It seems a free-for-all – closed to traffic yet open to some types.
Before any taxi drivers are shunted to a part of the town where their businesses may suffer or fail, surely sorting out this has to be the priority.
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