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  • Writer's pictureTunbridge Wells Alliance

Standing together for women's safety

Alison Webster, Nancy Warne and Ellen Neville

The recent spate of reports (on Nextdoor) alleging Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) in Tunbridge Wells taxis has rightfully caused us concern. It would be tragic if we lost trust in travelling in taxis, which should be beacons of safety and convenience, not spaces where some women feel vulnerable and at risk.

We need to ensure the protection of passengers, particularly those belonging to vulnerable demographics and our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.

Tunbridge Wells Borough Council takes this issue very seriously and addressing the safety of women and girls remains a priority for us. We have undertaken several surveys and face-to-face events in liaison with Kent Police recently. These engagements included a 'Safe Travels in Tunbridge Wells' survey to capture how residents, particularly women and girls, feel about travelling at night in the Borough.

Residents were invited to share their experiences so that we can better understand what is happening and thereby work to make all residents feel safer when travelling after dark.

The information gathered in these surveys will help inform both the wider West Kent VAWG Forum Action Plan for 2024/25 and the TWBC Community Safety Strategy and Action Plan for the year ahead and beyond.

To ensure safety in taxis there are key licensing regulations with mandatory training for taxi drivers and background checks overseen by the Council. Taxi drivers must obtain licenses from the Council.

This is all to be welcomed but it concerns us that these regulations are deemed necessary, and we, in the Alliance, are standing together to reject any normalisation of violence against women and girls in all forms. This is especially the case within a vital service like taxis. It is undeniable that many women experience a heightened level of concern and vulnerability when travelling compared to men. This burden of worry is not something women choose to carry, but rather a consequence of systemic issues that need to be addressed.

We want to further empower passengers with knowledge and resources to protect themselves; raising awareness about VAWG, prevention and emergency protocols is crucial. This means enforcing accountability with robust reporting mechanisms and transparent investigations. It means holding perpetrators accountable and rebuilding trust in the system. And it means that taxis must have zero tolerance for VAWG and

prioritise victim safety.

As female Councillors we have pledged to continue working to dismantle harmful stereotypes and advocate for systemic change that can create streets and taxis truly safe for everyone.

We have started work on costing for materials for additional signage in the back of taxis to provide information on how to report a driver or make a complaint - prompted by our recent work with VAWG and feeling safe.

In order to fast-track the scheme, we propose that this is voluntary for our drivers until such time that we can review the policy to mandate the display of this information.

To report a crime please use the following Kent Police link:

To provide feedback to the Council, whether it be a complaint or compliment, please visit:

This article appeared in the Times of Tunbridge Wells, 21st February 2024.

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