COUNCILLORS have hit back at claims that their new taxi policy was “racial profiling” that aimed to create a “hysteria” and turn the Bradford public against the Pakistani community.

The extraordinary claims, made by a member of the Unite Union at a Council meeting this morning, were branded “abhorrent,” “disgusting” and “disgraceful.”

Bradford Council is working with other authorities in West Yorkshire and York to harmonise their taxi regulations, including rules on who is classed as a “fit and proper” driver. Proposed changes included a three year ban for drivers who commit minor traffic offences.

A public consultation on the changes was held last year, with almost 700 people taking part. After the consultation the Council decided to soften some of its policies – the ban on minor offences was originally proposed to be five years.

Yesterday Bradford Council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee met to decide whether to move forward with the changes.

New plans could ban serious offenders from driving a taxi in Bradford

At the meeting a Shop Warden for the local Branch of the Unite Union, named Mr Sheikh, spoke to object to the changes, launching into a furious tirade during which he accused the Council of plotting to turn people against the Pakistani community and of masterminding the Yorkshire wide policy.

Mr Sheikh said: “I have come for Political justice. I object in the strongest terms to this. The information has been manipulated – this is populism at work.

“This is racial profiling at its best. It disgusts me that you are trying to marginalise the taxi driver community and divide the public. You are trying to marginalise a certain ethnic group, the Pakistani community.”

Referring to the plans to implement changes across Yorkshire, he said: “I would like to know if Bradford was the main instigator of this – is everything coming out of Bradford? Other local authorities are being corrupted by this populist policy.

“It is offensive that again and again the Council says it has to protect the public from taxi drivers. The Council wants to cause hysteria among the public by talking about unfit drivers and unfit vehicles.

“You are trying to divide the public – it is very devious.

“If taxi drivers went on strike then this city would be brought to its knees.”

When he was asked how many drivers the union represented in Bradford, he replied: “I can’t disclose those numbers.”

Councillor Simon Cooke (Cons, Bingley Rural) I understand that some people will have concerns, but out primary duty is to protect the public. We have consulted the public, and I’m a bit taken aback by this being referred to as a racist policy.

“This was about getting a view from the public of how the Council should licence individuals who drive public vehicles in our district.

“This policy doesn’t suggest anything too problematic for a person to expect from someone who is going to drive them home.

“If I asked people I represent they would probably say the Council isn’t being tough enough.

“I’m extremely disappointed that the representative tried to make this about racism. It is nothing to do with that, it is about making sure that a person, whatever their race, feels safe getting into a taxi cab.

“It is not really clear what he was actually objecting to.”

Councillor Alan Wainwright (Lab, Tong) said: “I’m disappointed by some of the words being used by the union representative. All colours, all creeds, we don’t have a problem. For you to bring racism into this is abhorrent.”

Chair of the committee Councillor David Warburton (Lab, Wyke) said: “I am disgusted in the comments being made here.

“There are 4,600 registered drivers, but 500,000 people in our district our job is to protect them as well as protecting the drivers and operators.

“To make this a racial point is in extremely bad taste – it was a disgraceful comment to make. It was absolutely disgusting.”

Councillor Mohammed Amran said he agreed with the other Councillors, saying: “You haven’t actually said what in the proposal you’re unhappy with.

“With respect, you’ve just gone on one.”

Councillor Alun Griffiths (Lib Dem, Idle and Thackley) described the speech as an “extraordinary performance” adding: “You had a chance to make a helpful point, but you failed to take it up.”

The committee then approved the changes.