TAXI drivers have accused council bosses of racial discrimination over plans to introduce a dress code which would exclude traditional Asian clothing.

Cabbies in Pendle said they were opposed to the code which rules out wearing a shalwar kameez, a traditional outfit consisting of a tunic and loose fitting pants.

The vast majority of Pendle’s taxi drivers are Asian men, many of whom wear the garments on a daily basis.

MEP and former Pendle councillor Sajjad Karim said he thought the proposals were ‘ludicrous’.

And Mohammed Akram, chairman of Pendle Private Hire Association, said drivers were extremely unhappy with the plans.

Mr Akram said: “A lot of them are saying it would be discrimination because it would take away their rights.”

But the council said the policy had been designed to ‘raise and maintain the profile’ of the taxi trade.

Glen Bulcock, chairman of Rossendale Taxi Association and owner of GB Taxis, said Rossendale Council had put forward a similar proposal recently, but it was rejected following a number of concerns.

He said: “It was refused because it infringes on human rights and, 90 per cent, if not more, of all taxi drivers in Rossendale are Asian.

"You can’t force Asian people to adhere to a code that doesn’t include their national dress.

“One or two councillors found it laughable that it was being introduced, and eventually our council did see sense and it was removed from the policy.

“As long as the taxi drivers look smart and are hygienic there shouldn’t be a problem. I hope they kick it out in Pendle.”

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said being smartly dressed was important, but taxi drivers could look smart in traditional dress.

He said: “It is not acceptable to tell people they can't wear dress that they wear for religious requirements or duties and it is important public authorities recognise and respect that.

“People at Pendle Council should spend more time tackling real issues such as the safety of taxi drivers instead of pointing the finger.

“At a time of cuts perhaps money could be saved in licensing departments by not coming up with such ridiculous ideas.”

Anjum Anwar, Blackburn Cathedral’s dialogue development officer, said she was also concerned about the plans.

She said: “I believe people should dress smartly whatever vocation they are in but I don't believe you can dictate to people what they can and can't wear, especially when it comes to sensitive issues like this.”

“If taxi drivers wore a suit and bow tie would it make them better drivers?”

Pendle Council said the code would require male drivers to wear smart trousers, shirt, and shoes and their female counterparts long trousers, knee-length skirt and blouse or knee-length dress.

Cabbies would be banned from wearing tracksuits, shorts, football and rugby tops, beachwear, short skirts, short dresses and flip flops as well as dirty or ripped clothing, and items with ‘offensive’ or ‘suggestive’ words or graphics.

Under the code drivers would be allowed to don football or rugby tops during significant sporting events such as the World Cup or Six Nations.

It would apply to all drivers of minicabs and black cabs.

According to Mr Akram, the majority of taxi drivers were also opposed for financial reasons and were already struggling to meet spiralling running costs.

He said: “This is an extra cost and burden, which I don’t think we are in a position to carry.

“I have done an investigation and the response from taxi-users is that drivers should be able to wear whatever they like as long as they are providing a service.”

Mohammed Ilyas, chairman of Pendle Hackney Carriage Association, said: “These drivers need to be comfortable and a lot of them like to wear tracksuits.

“Now the council is asking them to wear trousers and a lot of them can’t afford it. I don’t think it is right.”

Mohammed Arif, chairman of Burnley Private Hire Association, said he would not like to see such a proposal in his borough.

He said: “There’s nothing wrong with wearing something like a shalwar kameez.

"I think everybody should be allowed to wear whatever they like as long as it’s appropriate.

“There just needs to be a bit of common sense.”

Pendle’s Taxi Licensing Committee will discuss the proposal at Nelson Town Hall, at 7pm tonight.

Members will be told 19 out of 25 taxi operators sent a questionnaire were against the proposed introduction of a dress code.

In a report to the meeting, the council said: “Whilst Pendle Council does not wish to impose such standards by way of conditions to any licence, we expect, however, that such standards will be maintained at all times.”

Peter Atkinson, the council’s engineering and special projects manager, said: “It was agreed in principle at the November meeting of the taxi licensing committee that a dress code be introduced.

“The actual detail of such a code has yet to be agreed and will be debated at the committee’s meeting tonight.”

Coun Pauline McCormick, chairman of the taxi licensing committee, said: “A dress code will raise and maintain the professionalism of the taxi trade.”