The views in this piece should not be regarded as whatever, by whoever it may (and will) offend.
Regard me as a spectator
A personally favourite, now long dead comedian called George Carlin once observed that he was a spectator to events; I’m beginning to regard myself similarly in all things taxi.
I look at things happening and think very misappropriate and very unpolitically correct things about them. I do not regard this as my fault, I regard it on the whole as societies fault, therefore your fault because you lot are in fact society, as much as that fills me with trepidation.
The perfect example of the stupidity of our very existence happened this week when I was half way through a particularly decent bottle of merlot.
‘That damn app’ firm claimed victory over TFL on the very day one of its drivers was convicted of the sexual assault of a young woman.
I am not telling lies here, check the local paper from Islington.
A driver registered with ‘that damn app’ sexually assaulted a woman, yet this took little news from the national headlines.
The greater headline was a non-story, the press proclaimed the app’s victory over the regulators, further free promotion of that app.
You would, as a fair-minded person believe that someone in a particular company would actually stop and think ‘Hmmm, woman being violated against their will, that isn’t good’.
Likewise you would naturally think that someone in the nations press would stop and think ‘you know what? Maybe we should ask the company in question a few questions’. Yet there is nothing, there is a virtual press black out.
I honestly see some of these apps like a enormous bungee jump, it’s a huge thrill, will the rope hold, or will you die.
Comparatively, get in the vehicle hailed app via the iphone and will you get home still in a virginal state.
I believe the odds are roughly the same, although the chances are bungee jumping is still a little safer.
It was a similar story the month previous.
Ordinarily you would expect employing someone who was reportedly mentally disturbed would raise a few questions.
A person who was so disturbed they took a knife into a tube station, attacking and stabbing an innocent individual whilst shouting ‘this is for Syria’ would raise more than a passing comment in the press that the driver worked for an app firm.
You would believe this would lead to questions about your vetting procedures, or at least about your application process.
For example, ‘did you interview the person who is picking up your customers on your behalf, was he playing with knives at the time of the interview, were his trousers soiled, was he dribbling etc?’
Yet, whom did the media choose to vent its anger upon?.
The taxi trade of course, for merely pointing out that none of the normal things that the public should consider being done without question, were seemingly done.
This type of stupidity or just plain ignorance in the press, the lack of questions, assisted in creating situations like in Rotherham, where questions were not asked because it was not considered politically correct to ask them.
People fearful that asking questions may lead to them losing the vital things in life, like your job if you ask them, therefore complaints went ignored or uninvestigated.
Then we have stories about local authorities increasing license fees by around 100%, and in some cases much more.
Considering since time immortal licensing departments have been zero profit making, it rather makes you wonder about the level of accountancy skills employed by those all holy folk above us.
My milkman Dave charges me £6.40p each week for half a dozen bottles of milk delivered to my door by local delinquents, I don’t know if that expensive or not, I consider shopping a menial task and therefore delegate it.
Nevertheless, I like Dave, he does support Manchester United, which has put a serious strain on our relationship over the years, but we have put this aside.
Now if Dave comes along next week and says Wayne, I need £1000 for those six bottles, there was a surge in demand. I think Dave and me would have a serious falling out.
In fact, as much as I like Dave, I really think I’d kick him all around my front lawn, and as you folk will know from my gardening column in the paper, I really like my lawn.
Therefore, if all of a sudden, my local council decided to increase my license fee by 100%, I’d be a little upset, because these people, unlike Dave my milkman, should actually know, say to a figure of say around 5% either way, if the fee is accurate.
Naturally, I can sack Dave and get litres of the white stuff far cheaper elsewhere, but I cant sack my licensing authority (well could if I went to Rossendale or some other ghastly place where the sun doesn’t shine).
I recently heard of one local authority saying it took 15 hours to process a PH operator’s license as part of the justification for a huge increase in license fees.
Can somebody please write in and tell me how it takes 15 hours to look at an application form, I wonder if this timescale includes teaching basic English to the council staff?
How long can it possibly take to look at a form that you designed yourself, maybe check the accompanying planning consent and maybe check a criminal records certificate (if required).
As I write it was reported that some poor bloke in York had his school contract suspended for hugging his own children, and if I write that I genuinely believe the people responsible for his suspension should be water boarded for their stupidity, I’m regarded as the bad guy?
Of course, we are all well used to the high level of stupidity we are subjected to from the bureaucracy that is responsible for licensing. I know I have mentioned it before, but this 3-year licensing malarkey is a case in point.
Aside from the sheer stupidity of the government not to give out any guidance on the implementation of the law they brought in, foolishly believing it would reduce red tape.
In itself, a level of stupidity on a higher level. This was only to be expected when you listened to Baroness Kramer talk on the subject in parliament, the deregulation bill and its implications were very obviously beyond her ken.
A few months on, we appear to have local authority licensing departments attempting to justify their existence by dreaming up new excuses not to issue the licenses, or to make it harder for licensees, although I am sure this is not the case even though it looks that way.
What level of petty minded bureaucracy will refuse to issue a 3-year license on the basis a medical may expire during the duration of the license?
Unless licensing department employees are all now medically qualified, which bearing in mind some appear to have been lobotomised and is therefore doubtful. How on earth can they say whether a driver is medically suitable to continue to drive or not to drive?
Clearly, they cannot, they need a form, they need a form from the licensee’s doctor or a medical professional where the doctor says they are fit to drive a licensed vehicle.
They can then tick a box and issue a license.
Similarly with the DBS check (or whatever they’re called this week), if they expire midway through a person’s licensing period then some councils are using this as a reason not to issue the 3–year license.
I despair at this type of idiocy.
In an article in the Derbyshire Telegraph, Mid-Derbyshire’s MP Pauline Latham, recently said there was a “very serious” loophole in the taxi licensing process.
The current system forces applicants to disclose if they have had a licence refused or revoked but there is no way of telling if the applicant is telling the truth.
Taxi drivers are checked for criminal records but issues that would not show up on police records may not be known about.
Mrs Latham said the loophole had meant that a driver who has had a licence revoked by the council in one area for asking out young girls who used his taxi was successful in getting a new licence from a neighbouring authority.
She asked for a statement by the Department for Transport on the “possibility of a register of taxi drivers” so councils can check applicants to see if they have had a licence refused or revoked by another authority.
It is nice to discover that MP’s and local authorities are now fearful about the licensing system they have allowed develop.
From a personal point of view, and if I was a council official.
If I received an application for a taxi or private hire license from someone who lived many miles away, I would ask myself the question. ‘Why does this person want a license here, he lives nowhere near the place’?
I would perhaps use one of those new fangled things more commonly known as a telephone and call my colleague in the area of the applicants abode. I would ask if the chap ever had a license there.
Indeed, I may even add a question to the application form asking if the applicant has previously held a taxi or private hire license anywhere else and if it was revoked or suspended.
Sure, a person could tell fibs, but if they are caught telling fibs on an official form, they should, could and would get fined and convicted of a criminal offence.
I know this is revolutionary stuff.
The above article appears in the February edition of PHTM