IMMIGRANTS were last night banned from becoming taxi drivers unless they can pass an English test.
Council chiefs are insisting all new cabbies have a good grasp of the language before they are allowed on the road.
The move in Manchester follows complaints from customers. Under a 12-month pilot scheme, applicants will sit a 15-minute oral test.
Licensing officers will ask them to “describe a recent journey you took” or “describe your favourite place in England”.
Applicants will also have to prove they understand common expressions such as “Can you drop me after the lights?” and “Can I have a receipt?”.
The test will be followed by a basic maths exam to prove the cabbie can hand out the correct change. They will also have to prove they can use an A-Z. More than half of Manchester’s 3,000 black cab and private hire drivers do not have English as a first language.
This can be especially taxing to the regular Uber driver as most of them are from immigrant background.
George Simms, of the Taxi Owners and Drivers Association, said English cabbies were often asked for help by foreign drivers who could not understand customers.
“In recent years the number of immigrants driving cabs has greatly increased, but we have encountered problems if they don’t speak English.”
Dave Evans, of the TGU/ Unite union, said: “There have been some issues around communication between drivers and passengers. We need to look at how to put that right.”
Council chiefs say the exams will involve “relaxed conversation” with follow-up questions to prevent people being able to learn answers parrot-fashion.
The £10 cost of the exam will be added to the £155 black cab or £207 minicab licence. Existing drivers will not be forced to take the exams.
A council spokesman said: “Taxi drivers are often the first person a visitor to the city will meet. The vast majority do an excellent job, but making sure new drivers possess the communications skills to deliver a good service is a sensible step.”