ALL taxis and private hire vehicles in a borough are to have transparent screens fitted to protect drivers and passengers from coronavirus - paid for by residents.

Blackburn with Darwen Council is to spend £64,000 on the safety measure for more than 1,000 cabs and cars.

The move follows reports of drivers being spat at by customers since the start of the pandemic.

Conservative group environment spokeswoman Cllr Jean Rigby has questioned why the borough’s council taxpayers are financing the move rather than the drivers or the firms they work for as in neighbouring Hyndburn.

The decision to pay for the screens to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infection was taken by council environment director Martin Eden.

He authorised the purchase and fitting of protective transparent polycarbonate screens in 1,120 private hire vehicles and taxis licensed by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council at a cost of £64,000.

Mr Eden said in a report: “Taxi drivers have been identified as a key risk BAME group, due to their likely rate of exposure to Covid-19 and potential to transmit the virus to their customers.

“Estimates for Blackburn with Darwen suggest that drivers take approximately 30 to 35 journeys per shift and could work up to two shifts per day. One driver could therefore come into contact with anywhere from 30 to over 200 customers per day

“The council will fund the purchase and installation of the polycarbonate screens. The taxi drivers would be responsible for replacing the screen as and when it becomes necessary.

“All Pennine Lancashire licensing officers have taken the decision, along with directors of public health for Lancashire, to recommend the installation of perspex screens.

“The screens also offer some protection to drivers from abusive behaviour as some drivers have previously been spat at and there are significant risks for drivers if this happens during the pandemic.”

Cllr Rigby said: “This is a good idea but why is the council paying for it rather than the drivers or their firms?

“They are, or work for, private businesses.”

Blackburn with Darwen Council environment boss Cllr Jim Smith said “It is a matter of people’s safety, as simple as that.

“Drivers are more at risk of contracting coronavirus so this will protect them and their passengers from infection.”