AN investigation has been launched by Leeds City Council after a private hire taxi driver claimed he had been subjected to harassment and racial discrimination in relation to an application for an enhanced licence to drive VIPs around.
Mohammed Yousef, 47, from Moortown, also claims that during a heated confrontation with a senior council officer at the Torre Road taxi licencing depot, his four year old granddaughter - who was with him - was left shaken and distressed as he was shouted at and ordered off the premises.
Mr Yousef says the authority has deliberately been dragging its heels over his application for an executive licence, claiming that despite a two-week turnaround for normal applications, he was told to pay a £545 fee and “come back in four months”.
He claims he was also discouraged by one staff member from applying for the licence at all.
The council insists it has been fair and the office is just busy - but has launched an investigation, and demanded to see CCTV of the alleged Torre Road incident.
It has also now fast-tracked Mr Yousef’s application - and found him a place on the relevant course.
The matter relates to Mr Yousef’s application for an executive private hire licence, which would allow him to have blacked out windows to transport VIPs.
Mr Yousef said: “It was one of my clients who told me to apply for it.
“I have been in this trade for 27 years and have done advanced tests and have all the certificates. I must be a fit and proper person to drive! So I applied.
”But when I went to the office they told me ‘I don’t think this is for you’.
“A two-week waiting time for applications is standard but they took my £545 application fee and told me to come back in four months! They are delaying my application on purpose.”
Speaking of a visit to the Torre Road depot to pursue the matter, he added: “I was with my four year old grandchild.
“I was helping another driver and [the licensing officer) shouted across the room at me saying ‘why are you interfering? Get out of the building now!’
“My granddaughter was shaking. I had not interfered. The man had asked me for help!
“This is bullying and harassment and discrimination.
“All I want is fair treatment.”
A Leeds City Council spokeswoman said: “We can confirm we are currently investigating a complaint about an alleged incident at our taxi and private hire licensing offices however whilst an investigation is underway we cannot comment further.”
She added: “Everyone who applies for an executive private hire licence receives the same service from our licensing officers.
“The process is the same for everyone who applies – with no exception.
“Leeds is a very busy licensing office, which often results in applicants having to wait for appointments and places on courses.
“However our taxi and private hire licensing officers have worked hard to expedite Mr Yousef’s application by offering earlier appointments, when other applicants have cancelled.
“Unfortunately Mr Yousef was unable to attend a seminar, which is requirement of the licence, therefore we are unable to issue an executive licence until this is completed.
“However a space on the next seminar has recently become available which we will offer to Mr Yousef to help him complete the requirements of his licence application.”