TAXI drivers across Bury took to the roads today as they circled the town hall to protest Clean Air Zone (CAZ) charges.

Taxi services were halted, while the protest went on between 11am and 3pm, following a similar demonstration in Bolton town centre on January 10.

More than 300 drivers turned up, explaining their concerns that they cannot afford the daily CAZ charges, which will apply throughout Greater Manchester, even when they aren't working.

Drivers also stressed they cannot afford cars no older than five years old, and that the charges will impact the rest of the public as well.

Raja Naveed, vice-chairman of Bury Private Drivers Association, said: "The clean air charges won't just affect taxi drivers, but the general public as well.

"For example, if you pay for a plumber to come to your house, not only will they have to charge you for the work they do, but the extra charges they've incurred because of the Clean Air Zones.

"I would want to know where the money for these Clean Air Zones is going, and how it will make the air of Manchester cleaner.

"Can the leaders explain where the money from road tax is going?"

He added: "We are pleading with politicians not to do this, because they are throttling these taxi firms and the local businesses that rely on them and are the backbone of the Manchester economy.

"If I could speak to them now I would plead with them not to go ahead with it, because these charges are ridiculous, needless and must be scrapped immediately.

"It's not just us, but everyone will feel this and it's not fair after a pandemic that's left everyone's pockets hurting."

The minimum licensing standards (MLS) meeting to decide whether taxi drivers must drive vehicles no older than five years old will be going ahead on February 7.

Until June 1, 2023, taxis have an automatic temporary local exemption on CAZ charges.

Khalid Hussein, chairman of Bury's Hackney Carriages Association, added: "This protest is important because we are essentially self-employed and can't cover these costs when they come into force.

"They are imposing unreasonable conditions that can't be met and we must have these charges scrapped in favour of a different scheme, for the sake of our businesses, our children and our livelihoods."