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Council to rethink its taxi CCTV proposals
A controversial plan to record all conversations in city taxis is to be looked at again.
Oxford City Council is set to launch a “more extensive” consultation which could lead to only video or audio recording, rather than both.
Last year it approved the compulsory scheme after it was backed by two trade bodies.
But deputy leader Ed Turner said concerns raised by drivers following a November Oxford Mail report had led the council to think again.
He said: “The fact we are doing more consultation suggests the first consultation with trade bodies wasn’t sufficient to get an accurate view. That is why we are having another round of consultation.”
A council report backs more extensive consultation which could ask “whether either or both types of recording should be introduced”.
The council and trade leaders argue cameras are vital to provide evidence of attacks and allegations against drivers.
But civil liberties campaigners claim the devices breach data protection guidelines and are an invasion of privacy.
Alan Woodward, former chairman of trade body City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association (Colta) – who led calls for the cameras but resigned amid criticism from some cabbies – said “one or two” opposed the plans.
He said: “I had drivers in my office complaining about being attacked by passengers. We also had people complaining to the police about being attacked by drivers.”
The association represents 103 of the city’s 107 black cab drivers, he said, and committee leaders were elected each year.
But minicab driver Khalil Ahmed, who organised a petition of more than 270 opposed to the plan, said: “The council has never consulted the drivers.
“Colta never represented Hackney carriage drivers properly.”
He said the 665 minicab drivers “never had a proper body”.
Colta was not available for comment.
Nick Pickles, director of campaign group Big Brother Watch, said: “We don’t need another drawn-out consultation, we need the council to drop this intrusive, illiberal policy before any more damage is done to Oxford’s reputation.”
The cameras would start when the ignition is activated and stop 30 minutes after it is switched off. Footage would only be viewed on request from police and council officers. The council wanted all new cabs to have the £460 cameras, with the existing 665 vehicles fitted by April 2015.
It offered to pay £100 towards the cost of each recording system.
The plan was put on hold pending an inquiry by the Information Commissioner’s Office which ordered the council to justify the legality of cameras.