Dust-up at Dial-a-Cab as vote swings against float

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The Independent Online
The flotation of Dial-a-Cab, the London black taxi co-operative, has been postponed after hate mail was sent to its financial advisers, English Trust, and a 'death threat' was allegedly made to a director.

Dial-a-Cab had been due to float on the Alternative Investment Market in the spring, but a vote at a meeting on Sunday, attended by 1,290 of the co-operative's 1,628 members failed to get the necessary 75 per cent approval. Only 55 per cent of those present voted in favour of the float.

Brian Rice, Dial-a-Cab's chairman, yesterday expressed disappointment at the vote, saying that he and all other directors bar one were "100 per cent behind" the proposals. But his view was not shared by the many taxi-drivers who supported David Clegg, the one dissenting director.

One driver yesterday attributed the vote result to a lack of member consultation. "It was presented to us as a fait accompli," he said.

Discussion among cabbies of the proposals prior to Sunday's meeting was marred by claims and counter-claims of driver intimidation, apparently sparked by a change of heart by Mr Clegg. Mr Clegg originally supported the plans, but altered his stance shortly before Sunday's meeting.

"David [Clegg] didn't want to go along with the proposals, but, being on the board, he was caught on the horns of a dilemma. But we [the drivers] told him not to keep his mouth shut, but to speak up," explained one driver.

After Mr Clegg's apparent U-turn, internal debate over the conversion issue escalated last week.

"After David withdrew his support, English Trust received some hate mail," Mr Rice said. "Then an argument ensued between one of the members and David Clegg. The member made a remark to David along the lines of 'I could murder you' or 'I could kill you'. David then notified the police."

Dial-a-Cab was keen to play down the alleged death threats yesterday, which, following interviews with the parties involved, will not be investigated further by the police. "It was a figurative remark, made in the heat of the moment," Mr Rice said. One taxi-driver remarked: "The man [who made the threat] doesn't have the puff in him to do anything, quite frankly".

Mr Clegg was adamant yesterday that he would not be resigning from the board, despite a request to quit from Mr Rice. His decision was supported by many taxi-drivers. One said: "He's the only man on the board who supports our views."

Mr Rice said he would not be pursuing flotation proposals. He added: "I could do, but I don't intend to. We were 20 per cent short [of the required majority] and I don't consider that ... we could make up the ground."

The flotation issue will again be on the agenda when the cabbies convene a week on Sunday for the annual meeting.