Rotherham CSE Survivors Want Tougher Taxi Licensing

Heart Radio reports that victims of child sexual exploitation from Rotherham want councils across the country to use their experiences to prevent other young people being abused.

The Rotherham abuse steering group is built of survivors and family members created in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

They’ve put together a national plan to help prevent and reduce CSE.

Part of the plan covers licensing policies including taxi licensing to make it safer for all passengers and drivers.

It’s because, in some cases, drivers have been involved in CSE, with victims being trafficked across the country in taxis.

As a group, they have been advising and working along side Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to put their licensing suggestions in place with effect from July 2016.

They are also contacting all councils throughout the UK to put their suggestions in place, because they claim it will help reduce all forms of crime, as well as CSE.

The full list of recommendations for taxi licensing is below:

 

  1. All taxis to be installed with CCTV and audio devices.
  2. All taxis to be installed with tracking devices
  3. All taxis to be installed with shield glass separating the driver from passengers
  4. All children to travel in the back seat
  5. Taxi drivers to use the vehicle for work purposes only and not for personal use
  6. All drivers to be enhanced DBS checked
  7. All drivers to report to base when not carrying a fare
  8. Cars should only be used by the registered driver.
  9. National data base to respond to intelligence as well as evidence against all taxi drivers
  10. Regular, random drug tests on all drivers
  11. Training in CSE awareness and reporting for all drivers
  12. Mandatory for owner of company to keep correct complaints procedure
  13. All job vacancies for staff to go through job centre

Read more at: Heart Radio

South Lanarkshire Council boss disciplined over taxi contracts awarded to his nephew

The Sunday Herald reports that a senior employee at South Lanarkshire Council has been disciplined after an investigation into over £200,000 of taxi contracts awarded to his nephew.

Peter Henry, who was the election agent for Labour’s deputy leader on the local authority, has been given a written warning following a seven-month probe by auditors.

The Sunday Herald revealed in September that Henry, the council’s passenger services coordinator, had been suspended after an anonymous complaint was lodged.

His job was to oversee transport provision for citizens referred by the education and social work departments.

The complaint centred on payments for taxi services to his nephew Stephen McGhee, who according to the council’s website was awarded around £210,000 since 2013.

The contracts were made via a framework agreement and the individual deals were worth £32,300, £51,244, £19,000, £24,320, £18,300, £31,720, £18,056 and £15,288.

The council’s internal investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by Henry, but it is understood the local authority believes the family link meant he should not have been involved in the awards.

Henry was given a warning and it is also understood his duties will be re-aligned.

After Henry was initially suspended, this newspaper also revealed the links he and McGhee had to Labour in South Lanarkshire.

Henry was lined up to run deputy council leader Jackie Burns’ Holyrood election campaign, but this never materialised after Burns resigned the candidacy last year.

A leaked email also revealed that Henry and McGhee organised a dinner for Burns on council premises in 2015: “Peter Henry and Stephen McGhee have organised a fundraising dinner dance in the Banqueting Hall at Council Offices, Almada St., Hamilton on Friday, 27th Feb. at 7pm, in aid of next year’s Scottish Parliament election fund.

“This is primarily aimed at a target audience of supporters beyond the Party membership, but any members who would like to come would be very welcome.”

It is also understood that McGhee attended a meeting with a PR company last year about creating a website for Burns’ campaign.

According to Companies House, McGhee is the director of various companies. There is no also suggestion of wrongdoing by Burns or McGhee.

Christina McKelvie, who is standing for the SNP in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse for the Holyrood election, said: “Not a year goes by that we don’t see yet another scandal at South Lanarkshire Council. The Council needs to examine very urgently how it manages the procurement of services, planning procedures, contracts and more.

“For a Labour-led Council to regard it as perfectly acceptable to award over £200,000 on taxi contracts to a family member is obviously unacceptable.

“The structural advantage the party once had is in smithereens and councillors are now being repeatedly exposed to a very angry public.”

Graham Simpson, a Tory councillor who is also standing in the Holyrood election, said: “My understanding is that this was the subject of a quite forensic internal investigation, which has resulted in disciplinary action being taken. Councils need to ensure they are whiter than white. Sometimes external investigators should be brought in but I am satisfied this is the end of the matter in this case.”

John Wilson, who is contesting the Holyrood election for the Scottish Greens, said: “This case highlights the need for independent scrutiny of council contracts, especially where there are clear conflicts in the awarding of contracts to friends and family.”

A spokesman for South Lanarkshire council said: “I can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been completed. However, it would be inappropriate to comment further on a personnel matter of this nature.”

McGhee could not be reached.

source: The Sunday Herald

Sex offenders among those who applied for taxi licences in Burton and South Derbyshire

PAEDOPHILES, burglars and a kidnapper were among those who applied to become taxi drivers across East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire.

Figures from the Disclosure and Barring Service show that between 2012 and 2015, 2,890 disclosure orders were applied for.

Anyone applying to become a licence holder of a private hire vehicle or a hackney carriage must have a check carried out by the DBS which they must present as part of their application.

From the applications made, more than 17 per cent were found to have a conviction; 514 applicants in total with 2,003 convictions, cautions or reprimands between them.

Offences include indecent assault on a female under the age of 14, sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 16 and kidnapping.

There was also a host of driving offences including not wearing a seatbelt and driving while disqualified.

Policies from East Staffordshire Borough Council and South Derbyshire District Council mirror one another with major offences such as sexual assault or violence leaving it ‘unlikely’ that a licence will be accepted.

A spokesman from South Derbyshire District Council said: “Our main priority is protecting the public and making South Derbyshire a safe place to be. A full DBS check is required for all new drivers applying to us for a licence and the law requires that this check must be renewed every three years. Drivers are required to notify us of any new convictions they may have.

“The council’s policy is that when anyone with a previous criminal conviction applies for a private hire licence, the case is referred to the Licensing and Appeals Sub-Committee.

“Our private hire licensing policy, which can be viewed on our website, is then applied in each individual case to inform prior to any decision made.”

The DBS is not able to state whether any of the individuals were employed as that decision is down to the local authority.

A spokesman from East Staffordshire Borough Council said: “Following the appropriate legislation the general licensing committee consider whether the applicant is a fit and proper person.

“Each case must be dealt with on its own merits. The committee follow Home Office guidance for particular offences and periods free from conviction will be taken into account.

“The principal objective for the licensing authority is the safety and protection of the public.”

Read more: Burton Mail

Taxi firms in Moray could be stung as council prepares for licence fee hike

A taxi firm boss fears business could go to the wall if Moray Council raises the cost of operating licences.

The local authority has launched a consultation on a possible increase in fees for running cabs.

Rod McLennan, owner of C&R Taxis, said: “Every increase in the cost of licences to keep the cars on the road makes it harder all the time to stay in front of things.

“I realise that through inflation the prices are going to go up. Sometimes the council puts it up by more than the cost of inflation, which makes it harder again.”

Increased taxi licence charges may only be the start as Moray Council is planning similar consultations about other licences it issues.

Until fares can be increased, operators would have to carry the burden of any extra costs.

Mr McLennan said: “We can’t charge more than what’s on the meter, which is also agreed with the council. Strictly speaking, we can’t pass on the increased costs to customers until the fares are reviewed again in August.”

Moray Council has stressed that it does not make a profit from managing the licence applications it handles throughout the year.

Licensing committee chairman Councillor Gordon Cowie said: “The revised fees reflect as accurately as possible the amount of staff time and fixed costs involved in processing licence applications.

“It is only fair that the full cost of operating the licensing system is recovered by the council, otherwise council tax payers are effectively subsidising each and every licence that we issue.

“It is also important that there is full cost recovery at a time when the council is faced with unprecedented budget cuts while trying to protect frontline services.”

The council’s consultation will close on May 27 and the results will be reported to councillors at the end of June.

source: https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/

Wayne’s World – May 2016

B6TWNDmCQAAHCZaWayne’s World

By

Wayne Casey

The views expressed here are not the views of anyone, ever.

I started last month’s article by writing about the sad passing of Bryan Rowland, this month I feel I must say a little about another colleague who sadly passed away, Pat Connor.

Pat was a stalwart of the Manchester cab trade for over 40 years, well known through his political contacts throughout Greater Manchester and a strong union man through the GMB.

He was one of the founders of the ‘Meeting of Minds’ group and a devoted follower of Manchester United. RIP my friend.

Before Pat was buried news came that another colleague, Ray Tweddle of Streamline Taxis in Hartlepool had also sadly passed away. Ray was a NTA member for many years, attending regional meetings on a regular basis, always smiling and sharing a joke.

Last month I wrote at length about the way the press has seemingly treated that damn app. Ignoring the stories of driver complaints and on occasion completely ignoring some of the horror stories.

This month this line appears to have continued.

Asad Shah, a shopkeeper in Glasgow, appears to have had the audacity to wish Christians a Happy Easter. For this heinous crime, he was brutally murdered, allegedly by Tanveer Ahmed, a 32-year-old private hire driver who was working for the damn app company.

Predictably, the company issued a statement saying, “the car had not been used for any trips in Glasgow”, they also said, “any driver given a private hire licence by Bradford City Council had to pass enhanced DBS disclosure tests”.

Ahmed apparently confessed to his crime on 6th April, the press, predictably, reverted to describing him as a taxi driver, even though he was a private hire driver working for that damn app.

In a former life I was responsible a 50 cab fleet in Carlisle – over the twenty odd years I did this I cannot recall employing a single murderer – if I did, even though I have a very selective memory, I would remember doing so.

The Bury Times during April reported that Bury council had teamed up with that damn app in relation to an event in their borough called Parklife, I’ve been to Bury, Pondlife would be more apt. Irrespective of that bombshell, it would appear that the good councillors of the town seem to believe the public will be safer. They want to be careful making statements like that, it recently cost the damn app company $10 million in California for a similar claim.

The local paper stated, “it is not known at this stage whether its controversial surge pricing will be in place, where riders can pay up to 10 times the price depending on demand”.

It is therefore safe to assume the council negotiated a deal with the damn app company without knowing exactly how much the app company would be charging visitors from the event. My sense of wtf returns once more.

As the damn app company will be presumably using vehicles licensed across the Greater Manchester area, the council have seemingly, (and very effectively), stuck two fingers up at the cabs they license locally. Indeed, if they believe their own licensing officers have any control over vehicles they don’t license, they’re going to be in for a wonderful surprise and potential shenanigans galore.

Another person who deserves to be beaten about the head with a blunt gardening implement is a now former driver of that damn app. Mohamed Mohamoud, 51 of Tulse Hill who was told to pay £1,546 in fines and costs at Hammersmith magistrates’ court for refusing a guide dog.

District Judge Jeremy Coleman found him guilty of breaking the Equality Act 2010, saying: “I listened to the defendant with care but I don’t believe what he said to me.” In other words ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’, which is probably why I was refused a seat on the judiciary.

Although I would love to have seen the defendants face if the judge when sentencing uttered the words, ‘Officers of the court, take this man outside and shoot him!’

Speaking outside court, Ms Sharp (the blind lady), of Roehampton, welcomed the prosecution and vowed never to use Uber again. Sadly, I would think this is exactly what that damn app firm want; it’ll save them asking questions of their ‘partners’.

One really has to throw into question, yet again, the quality of driver the app appears to be attracting, may I be so bold as to suggest a further question relating to guide dogs in their induction courses for their ‘partners’.

The damn app company are not seemingly alone in employing the socially inept, people who need to be tied to a lamppost, naked and beaten about the body with a six iron. Up in Trafford, Asif Raza Syed was prosecuted under equalities legislation at Trafford Magistrates Court on April 8 for refusing to accept a passenger with a guide dog from his operator.

Carrying on, during April a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was answered by the Police in London, it gave rather alarming statistics involving minicab drivers. Between February 2015 and February 2016, there were154 serious sexual assaults (including rape), carried out by Private Hire drivers on passengers.

Elements of the press, well the Evening Standard and Independent Newspapers mainly, then went with the following furious headlines.

“126 cab drivers charged with sexual or violent crimes” stormed the Independent,

“More than 400 London cab drivers charged with crimes last year” fumed by the Evening Standard.

Of course, the culprits weren’t ‘London cab drivers’, the press, showing their usual ignorance and hatred of the cab trade, a level of ignorance which is beyond the ken of even those with single digit IQ’s, chose those headlines quite obviously on purpose.

Talking of wonderful surprises, the Daily Mirror reported on 18th April of a scandal of local government inadequacy. It reported:

“Drivers in South Ribble, Lancashire, have been accused of violating children while carrying out council-funded school runs, according to an interim review of the licensing of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles by South Ribble Council.

The horrifying report – which bears troubling similarities to the Rotherham sex abuse scandal – claims children were being put at risk on their daily commute.

It classes the failure of ­authorities to vet 44 of its drivers as particularly severe, since a report into the Rotherham attacks had warned 1,400 victims were picked up by taxis from school and children’s homes.”

It is with no sense of conceit I write this, but I have been warning for months in this column, years in other publications, that this type of thing is going to happen.

On one hand, you have licensing departments that have an ever-increasing workload of which taxis and private hire are merely part of the function and are arguably the most important and labour intensive element.

On the other hand, you have over promoted, politically correct feckwits who don’t know their backsides from their elbows.

However, regulatory services face budgetary pressure, like the rest of local government.

Yes, I know licensing Taxi and PH budgets should be ring fenced, but we all know those budgets have been pilfered for years. Indeed, one taxi-licensing budget paid for a firework display and another paid for a taxi rank that wasn’t actually there.

Press headlines telling of huge increases in license fees and numerous local authorities adopting joint regulatory services with adjoining local councils, based on saving taxpayers money are obvious further examples of budgetary pressure.

Officers are in numerous cases given too many delegated powers from often-lazy licensing committees and chief executives, repeatedly to save on the cost of committee meetings, and consequently the adoption of penalty point schemes. Cutting back on paperwork, interviews under PACE and writing reports that may be scrutinized in courts cuts expenditure.

In many cases, licensing departments are understaffed, even a single absence, perhaps due to illness, can dramatically decrease the effectiveness of a licensing department.

I am reminded by a quote from Noam Chomsky;

“That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital”

When you seriously look at it how many of you are thinking, the council cannot run licensing, let’s get a private company to run it?

Overstretched licensing departments do not exactly help themselves.

As I have said and wrote on numerous occasions, if someone from many miles away wants a taxi or private hire license, someone must surely ask why?

Why would this person from Manchester, come all the way to Whitehaven to apply for a taxi license?

Should it not ring a couple of alarm bells? Am I led to believe that licensing officers, after almost 30 years in dealing with them, are all of a sudden not the suspicious type?

Let us not fool ourselves; there is understandable public anger about children being molested and raped by licensed drivers, the damage these drivers do to the reputation of the rest of us cannot be easily repaired.

In everything this and what the previous government has done, be it bringing in the deregulation act or ignoring the ‘out of town’ taxis issue, it has helped create a situation where the public are less safe and licensing departments can be accused of neglect.

It is mooted in certain areas that private companies such as ‘Capita’ should run regulatory services departments, indeed; it is advertised on their website.

Of course, private companies are run for profit, something expressly forbidden in terms of our licenses, but let’s face facts here, since when has something such as this ever-stopped private capital?

I have news for you, it hasn’t, laws are changed.

They are coming for your licensing departments and do you know what? They will get them.

All thoughts of dealing with a local licensing officer, those people you castigate whenever they make an unpopular decision, but are there so you can vent and grass up colleagues, will be gone.

You will be dealing with people miles away, perhaps thousands of miles away, no face, just a voice like when you call telecom to complain, you will pay and if you don’t you’ll lose your license.

I’ve seen the future and now they’re coming for us.

also available at – PHTM May Issue
 

Apr 27

Annual General Meeting & Conference 2016

National Taxi Associationntalogo1

Annual General Meeting & Conference 2016

18th & 19th May 2016

Arena MK, Stadium Way, Milton Keynes, MK1 1ST

18th May – 14:00hrs – AGM

19th May – 10:30hrs – Conference

National Taxi Association members should register here (click)

 

In association with

exhibition-2016-splash.jpg

May 03

Rotherham CSE Survivors Want Tougher Taxi Licensing

Heart Radio reports that victims of child sexual exploitation from Rotherham want councils across the country to use their experiences to prevent other young people being abused.

The Rotherham abuse steering group is built of survivors and family members created in the wake of the Rotherham abuse scandal.

They’ve put together a national plan to help prevent and reduce CSE.

Part of the plan covers licensing policies including taxi licensing to make it safer for all passengers and drivers.

It’s because, in some cases, drivers have been involved in CSE, with victims being trafficked across the country in taxis.

As a group, they have been advising and working along side Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council to put their licensing suggestions in place with effect from July 2016.

They are also contacting all councils throughout the UK to put their suggestions in place, because they claim it will help reduce all forms of crime, as well as CSE.

The full list of recommendations for taxi licensing is below:

 

  1. All taxis to be installed with CCTV and audio devices.
  2. All taxis to be installed with tracking devices
  3. All taxis to be installed with shield glass separating the driver from passengers
  4. All children to travel in the back seat
  5. Taxi drivers to use the vehicle for work purposes only and not for personal use
  6. All drivers to be enhanced DBS checked
  7. All drivers to report to base when not carrying a fare
  8. Cars should only be used by the registered driver.
  9. National data base to respond to intelligence as well as evidence against all taxi drivers
  10. Regular, random drug tests on all drivers
  11. Training in CSE awareness and reporting for all drivers
  12. Mandatory for owner of company to keep correct complaints procedure
  13. All job vacancies for staff to go through job centre

Read more at: Heart Radio

May 01

South Lanarkshire Council boss disciplined over taxi contracts awarded to his nephew

The Sunday Herald reports that a senior employee at South Lanarkshire Council has been disciplined after an investigation into over £200,000 of taxi contracts awarded to his nephew.

Peter Henry, who was the election agent for Labour’s deputy leader on the local authority, has been given a written warning following a seven-month probe by auditors.

The Sunday Herald revealed in September that Henry, the council’s passenger services coordinator, had been suspended after an anonymous complaint was lodged.

His job was to oversee transport provision for citizens referred by the education and social work departments.

The complaint centred on payments for taxi services to his nephew Stephen McGhee, who according to the council’s website was awarded around £210,000 since 2013.

The contracts were made via a framework agreement and the individual deals were worth £32,300, £51,244, £19,000, £24,320, £18,300, £31,720, £18,056 and £15,288.

The council’s internal investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by Henry, but it is understood the local authority believes the family link meant he should not have been involved in the awards.

Henry was given a warning and it is also understood his duties will be re-aligned.

After Henry was initially suspended, this newspaper also revealed the links he and McGhee had to Labour in South Lanarkshire.

Henry was lined up to run deputy council leader Jackie Burns’ Holyrood election campaign, but this never materialised after Burns resigned the candidacy last year.

A leaked email also revealed that Henry and McGhee organised a dinner for Burns on council premises in 2015: “Peter Henry and Stephen McGhee have organised a fundraising dinner dance in the Banqueting Hall at Council Offices, Almada St., Hamilton on Friday, 27th Feb. at 7pm, in aid of next year’s Scottish Parliament election fund.

“This is primarily aimed at a target audience of supporters beyond the Party membership, but any members who would like to come would be very welcome.”

It is also understood that McGhee attended a meeting with a PR company last year about creating a website for Burns’ campaign.

According to Companies House, McGhee is the director of various companies. There is no also suggestion of wrongdoing by Burns or McGhee.

Christina McKelvie, who is standing for the SNP in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse for the Holyrood election, said: “Not a year goes by that we don’t see yet another scandal at South Lanarkshire Council. The Council needs to examine very urgently how it manages the procurement of services, planning procedures, contracts and more.

“For a Labour-led Council to regard it as perfectly acceptable to award over £200,000 on taxi contracts to a family member is obviously unacceptable.

“The structural advantage the party once had is in smithereens and councillors are now being repeatedly exposed to a very angry public.”

Graham Simpson, a Tory councillor who is also standing in the Holyrood election, said: “My understanding is that this was the subject of a quite forensic internal investigation, which has resulted in disciplinary action being taken. Councils need to ensure they are whiter than white. Sometimes external investigators should be brought in but I am satisfied this is the end of the matter in this case.”

John Wilson, who is contesting the Holyrood election for the Scottish Greens, said: “This case highlights the need for independent scrutiny of council contracts, especially where there are clear conflicts in the awarding of contracts to friends and family.”

A spokesman for South Lanarkshire council said: “I can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been completed. However, it would be inappropriate to comment further on a personnel matter of this nature.”

McGhee could not be reached.

source: The Sunday Herald

May 01

Sex offenders among those who applied for taxi licences in Burton and South Derbyshire

PAEDOPHILES, burglars and a kidnapper were among those who applied to become taxi drivers across East Staffordshire and South Derbyshire.

Figures from the Disclosure and Barring Service show that between 2012 and 2015, 2,890 disclosure orders were applied for.

Anyone applying to become a licence holder of a private hire vehicle or a hackney carriage must have a check carried out by the DBS which they must present as part of their application.

From the applications made, more than 17 per cent were found to have a conviction; 514 applicants in total with 2,003 convictions, cautions or reprimands between them.

Offences include indecent assault on a female under the age of 14, sexual intercourse with a female under the age of 16 and kidnapping.

There was also a host of driving offences including not wearing a seatbelt and driving while disqualified.

Policies from East Staffordshire Borough Council and South Derbyshire District Council mirror one another with major offences such as sexual assault or violence leaving it ‘unlikely’ that a licence will be accepted.

A spokesman from South Derbyshire District Council said: “Our main priority is protecting the public and making South Derbyshire a safe place to be. A full DBS check is required for all new drivers applying to us for a licence and the law requires that this check must be renewed every three years. Drivers are required to notify us of any new convictions they may have.

“The council’s policy is that when anyone with a previous criminal conviction applies for a private hire licence, the case is referred to the Licensing and Appeals Sub-Committee.

“Our private hire licensing policy, which can be viewed on our website, is then applied in each individual case to inform prior to any decision made.”

The DBS is not able to state whether any of the individuals were employed as that decision is down to the local authority.

A spokesman from East Staffordshire Borough Council said: “Following the appropriate legislation the general licensing committee consider whether the applicant is a fit and proper person.

“Each case must be dealt with on its own merits. The committee follow Home Office guidance for particular offences and periods free from conviction will be taken into account.

“The principal objective for the licensing authority is the safety and protection of the public.”

Read more: Burton Mail

May 01

Taxi firms in Moray could be stung as council prepares for licence fee hike

A taxi firm boss fears business could go to the wall if Moray Council raises the cost of operating licences.

The local authority has launched a consultation on a possible increase in fees for running cabs.

Rod McLennan, owner of C&R Taxis, said: “Every increase in the cost of licences to keep the cars on the road makes it harder all the time to stay in front of things.

“I realise that through inflation the prices are going to go up. Sometimes the council puts it up by more than the cost of inflation, which makes it harder again.”

Increased taxi licence charges may only be the start as Moray Council is planning similar consultations about other licences it issues.

Until fares can be increased, operators would have to carry the burden of any extra costs.

Mr McLennan said: “We can’t charge more than what’s on the meter, which is also agreed with the council. Strictly speaking, we can’t pass on the increased costs to customers until the fares are reviewed again in August.”

Moray Council has stressed that it does not make a profit from managing the licence applications it handles throughout the year.

Licensing committee chairman Councillor Gordon Cowie said: “The revised fees reflect as accurately as possible the amount of staff time and fixed costs involved in processing licence applications.

“It is only fair that the full cost of operating the licensing system is recovered by the council, otherwise council tax payers are effectively subsidising each and every licence that we issue.

“It is also important that there is full cost recovery at a time when the council is faced with unprecedented budget cuts while trying to protect frontline services.”

The council’s consultation will close on May 27 and the results will be reported to councillors at the end of June.

source: https://www.pressandjournal.co.uk/

Apr 29

Wayne’s World – May 2016

B6TWNDmCQAAHCZaWayne’s World

By

Wayne Casey

The views expressed here are not the views of anyone, ever.

I started last month’s article by writing about the sad passing of Bryan Rowland, this month I feel I must say a little about another colleague who sadly passed away, Pat Connor.

Pat was a stalwart of the Manchester cab trade for over 40 years, well known through his political contacts throughout Greater Manchester and a strong union man through the GMB.

He was one of the founders of the ‘Meeting of Minds’ group and a devoted follower of Manchester United. RIP my friend.

Before Pat was buried news came that another colleague, Ray Tweddle of Streamline Taxis in Hartlepool had also sadly passed away. Ray was a NTA member for many years, attending regional meetings on a regular basis, always smiling and sharing a joke.

Last month I wrote at length about the way the press has seemingly treated that damn app. Ignoring the stories of driver complaints and on occasion completely ignoring some of the horror stories.

This month this line appears to have continued.

Asad Shah, a shopkeeper in Glasgow, appears to have had the audacity to wish Christians a Happy Easter. For this heinous crime, he was brutally murdered, allegedly by Tanveer Ahmed, a 32-year-old private hire driver who was working for the damn app company.

Predictably, the company issued a statement saying, “the car had not been used for any trips in Glasgow”, they also said, “any driver given a private hire licence by Bradford City Council had to pass enhanced DBS disclosure tests”.

Ahmed apparently confessed to his crime on 6th April, the press, predictably, reverted to describing him as a taxi driver, even though he was a private hire driver working for that damn app.

In a former life I was responsible a 50 cab fleet in Carlisle – over the twenty odd years I did this I cannot recall employing a single murderer – if I did, even though I have a very selective memory, I would remember doing so.

The Bury Times during April reported that Bury council had teamed up with that damn app in relation to an event in their borough called Parklife, I’ve been to Bury, Pondlife would be more apt. Irrespective of that bombshell, it would appear that the good councillors of the town seem to believe the public will be safer. They want to be careful making statements like that, it recently cost the damn app company $10 million in California for a similar claim.

The local paper stated, “it is not known at this stage whether its controversial surge pricing will be in place, where riders can pay up to 10 times the price depending on demand”.

It is therefore safe to assume the council negotiated a deal with the damn app company without knowing exactly how much the app company would be charging visitors from the event. My sense of wtf returns once more.

As the damn app company will be presumably using vehicles licensed across the Greater Manchester area, the council have seemingly, (and very effectively), stuck two fingers up at the cabs they license locally. Indeed, if they believe their own licensing officers have any control over vehicles they don’t license, they’re going to be in for a wonderful surprise and potential shenanigans galore.

Another person who deserves to be beaten about the head with a blunt gardening implement is a now former driver of that damn app. Mohamed Mohamoud, 51 of Tulse Hill who was told to pay £1,546 in fines and costs at Hammersmith magistrates’ court for refusing a guide dog.

District Judge Jeremy Coleman found him guilty of breaking the Equality Act 2010, saying: “I listened to the defendant with care but I don’t believe what he said to me.” In other words ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’, which is probably why I was refused a seat on the judiciary.

Although I would love to have seen the defendants face if the judge when sentencing uttered the words, ‘Officers of the court, take this man outside and shoot him!’

Speaking outside court, Ms Sharp (the blind lady), of Roehampton, welcomed the prosecution and vowed never to use Uber again. Sadly, I would think this is exactly what that damn app firm want; it’ll save them asking questions of their ‘partners’.

One really has to throw into question, yet again, the quality of driver the app appears to be attracting, may I be so bold as to suggest a further question relating to guide dogs in their induction courses for their ‘partners’.

The damn app company are not seemingly alone in employing the socially inept, people who need to be tied to a lamppost, naked and beaten about the body with a six iron. Up in Trafford, Asif Raza Syed was prosecuted under equalities legislation at Trafford Magistrates Court on April 8 for refusing to accept a passenger with a guide dog from his operator.

Carrying on, during April a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was answered by the Police in London, it gave rather alarming statistics involving minicab drivers. Between February 2015 and February 2016, there were154 serious sexual assaults (including rape), carried out by Private Hire drivers on passengers.

Elements of the press, well the Evening Standard and Independent Newspapers mainly, then went with the following furious headlines.

“126 cab drivers charged with sexual or violent crimes” stormed the Independent,

“More than 400 London cab drivers charged with crimes last year” fumed by the Evening Standard.

Of course, the culprits weren’t ‘London cab drivers’, the press, showing their usual ignorance and hatred of the cab trade, a level of ignorance which is beyond the ken of even those with single digit IQ’s, chose those headlines quite obviously on purpose.

Talking of wonderful surprises, the Daily Mirror reported on 18th April of a scandal of local government inadequacy. It reported:

“Drivers in South Ribble, Lancashire, have been accused of violating children while carrying out council-funded school runs, according to an interim review of the licensing of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles by South Ribble Council.

The horrifying report – which bears troubling similarities to the Rotherham sex abuse scandal – claims children were being put at risk on their daily commute.

It classes the failure of ­authorities to vet 44 of its drivers as particularly severe, since a report into the Rotherham attacks had warned 1,400 victims were picked up by taxis from school and children’s homes.”

It is with no sense of conceit I write this, but I have been warning for months in this column, years in other publications, that this type of thing is going to happen.

On one hand, you have licensing departments that have an ever-increasing workload of which taxis and private hire are merely part of the function and are arguably the most important and labour intensive element.

On the other hand, you have over promoted, politically correct feckwits who don’t know their backsides from their elbows.

However, regulatory services face budgetary pressure, like the rest of local government.

Yes, I know licensing Taxi and PH budgets should be ring fenced, but we all know those budgets have been pilfered for years. Indeed, one taxi-licensing budget paid for a firework display and another paid for a taxi rank that wasn’t actually there.

Press headlines telling of huge increases in license fees and numerous local authorities adopting joint regulatory services with adjoining local councils, based on saving taxpayers money are obvious further examples of budgetary pressure.

Officers are in numerous cases given too many delegated powers from often-lazy licensing committees and chief executives, repeatedly to save on the cost of committee meetings, and consequently the adoption of penalty point schemes. Cutting back on paperwork, interviews under PACE and writing reports that may be scrutinized in courts cuts expenditure.

In many cases, licensing departments are understaffed, even a single absence, perhaps due to illness, can dramatically decrease the effectiveness of a licensing department.

I am reminded by a quote from Noam Chomsky;

“That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital”

When you seriously look at it how many of you are thinking, the council cannot run licensing, let’s get a private company to run it?

Overstretched licensing departments do not exactly help themselves.

As I have said and wrote on numerous occasions, if someone from many miles away wants a taxi or private hire license, someone must surely ask why?

Why would this person from Manchester, come all the way to Whitehaven to apply for a taxi license?

Should it not ring a couple of alarm bells? Am I led to believe that licensing officers, after almost 30 years in dealing with them, are all of a sudden not the suspicious type?

Let us not fool ourselves; there is understandable public anger about children being molested and raped by licensed drivers, the damage these drivers do to the reputation of the rest of us cannot be easily repaired.

In everything this and what the previous government has done, be it bringing in the deregulation act or ignoring the ‘out of town’ taxis issue, it has helped create a situation where the public are less safe and licensing departments can be accused of neglect.

It is mooted in certain areas that private companies such as ‘Capita’ should run regulatory services departments, indeed; it is advertised on their website.

Of course, private companies are run for profit, something expressly forbidden in terms of our licenses, but let’s face facts here, since when has something such as this ever-stopped private capital?

I have news for you, it hasn’t, laws are changed.

They are coming for your licensing departments and do you know what? They will get them.

All thoughts of dealing with a local licensing officer, those people you castigate whenever they make an unpopular decision, but are there so you can vent and grass up colleagues, will be gone.

You will be dealing with people miles away, perhaps thousands of miles away, no face, just a voice like when you call telecom to complain, you will pay and if you don’t you’ll lose your license.

I’ve seen the future and now they’re coming for us.

also available at – PHTM May Issue
 

Apr 29

House of Commons – Cross Border Hiring

28th April 2016

Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

Back in 1847 when Lord John Russell was Prime Minister, our taxi licensing laws were developed. We now have a problem in the north-west of England, where one local authority is handing out hackney carriage taxi licences like sweeties. The problem is that with a hackney licence a person can operate as a private hire vehicle driver anywhere in the country, so there are now taxis from that local authority operating as far afield as Bristol without appropriate checks and balances. May we have an urgent debate on how we can bring our taxi licensing regime up to date?

Chris Grayling Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Palace of Westminster (Joint Committee)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I was not aware of the situation that he describes. I will make sure that it is drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State for Transport who I am sure, if he was also unaware of it, will want to look at the matter very seriously.

Apr 29

Taxi driver punched passer-by who told him to move his cab

A TAXI driver lost his job after he punched a passer-by who told him to move his cab.

Waheed Sadiq left the victim needing stitches following the attack in Stoke.

Sadiq has since had his taxi licence revoked and has now received a suspended prison sentence.

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard Sadiq’s taxi was double parked in Glebe Street – blocking one of the two lanes – when a bus stopped alongside him to let passengers off.

This blocked the road, and one of the disembarking bus passengers complained to Sadiq, who then struck the victim in the face.

The single blow caused the man to fall to the ground, and he required stitches to a mouth wound.

Sadiq, of Erskine Street, Dresden, was arrested following the incident which happened on the afternoon of February 7, 2015.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council then revoked his taxi licence, despite his denial of the wounding charge.

Councillor Joy Garner, chairwoman of the licensing and general purposes committee said: “We treat any incidents of this nature extremely seriously. In this instance we moved swiftly to put Sadiq’s case before the earliest licensing panel meeting, last June.

“Sadiq’s taxi licence was immediately revoked.

“The safety of the public is our number one priority and we will use our powers to take action quickly in the interests of public protection.”

Sadiq, who has two previous convictions including an assault by beating, was found guilty last month after a trial.

The 35-year-old is now working at a local restaurant.

Sadiq was sentenced at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court this week where Judge David Fletcher handed him a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.

Judge Fletcher said: “You knew you were parked there for longer than you should have been. It’s a busy, one way street.

“When the bus stopped it stopped the traffic, that annoyed people. This gentleman spoke to you and you responded by punching him.

“You behaved in a boorish and arrogant manner.”

Sadiq – whose wife is about to have a baby – was also ordered to do 220 hours unpaid work, pay £500 compensation to the victim and complete 30 sessions of a rehabilitation activity requirement.

The city has around 1,800 licensed taxi drivers. Any driver who is charged with a crime is required to inform the city council within seven days.

Read more: http://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/

Apr 28

South Ribble leader forced to speak on taxi driver scandal

The Leader of South Ribble Borough Council has pledged all recommendations from the ongoing review of its licensing function will be implemented.

Speaking at a full council meeting to discuss the issue, Councillor Margaret Smith stressed the independent investigation had yet to be concluded but that the authority had already taken action to act upon its interim findings.

She said: “I want to reassure the residents of South Ribble that nothing matters more to this council than their safety, and in particular that of our children and young people. We acted swiftly as soon as issues relating to the licensing service were brought to our attention and are determined to learn any lessons the report highlights.

“This council is committed to being open and transparent. When we receive the final independent report it will be published in full, which has always been our clear intention. This council is not afraid to open itself up to external challenge, to accept where improvements can be made, and to ensure they are implemented.

“The report which has been publicised over the last week was only ever an interim version. It was certainly not in a suitable format to be shared as widely as it was. It included individual’s names and information that could jeopardise ongoing disciplinary procedures concerning members of staff.

“The interim report has set out a number of recommendations for making sure our licensing service works effectively in the future. We have accepted all of them and have taken them forward.

“The recommendations include a comprehensive exercise to ensure all taxi licence applications have the right documentation in place, and steps to reinforce our staff’s understanding of their role in protecting the public. We will also roll out a refreshed programme of mandatory safeguarding training for all staff over the coming months.

“Over and above the recommendations in the interim report, we have also put in place additional resources, extra checks on taxi licences, reformed our procedures and invested in extra technology to improve the way our licensing service operates. The safeguarding board and the county council have also been given assurances about the swift action we have taken and our commitment to continue working with them and keeping them fully informed.”

Councillors agreed for the scrutiny committee to oversee the publication of the final report, and identify any further lessons that need to be learnt.
Councillor Smith added:

“There is a shared commitment on all sides of the council to public safety. It is important we work together on a cross-party basis to ensure the improvements that may be required in the licensing department are carried out.

“We will put an action plan in place to ensure that any further recommendations from the final report are implemented. I am absolutely determined to protect the public and we will make sure that our licensing functions are absolutely and completely spot on.”

source: http://www.thebee.co.uk/

Apr 28

Uber forced to apologise to blind student after driver refused to let his guide dog in car because it was against his RELIGION

Uber has been forced to apologise to a blind student after one of its drivers refused to let a guide dog in his car – saying it was against his religion.

Social media student Charles Bloch, 22, used the taxi firm’s smart phone app to call a cab to take himself and two-year-old Labrador Carlo to the park.

Once booked, he called the driver to let him know he would be bringing his guide dog but the man refused to take them saying it was an ‘unclean animal’ and might ‘try to lick him’.

When Charles told him it was illegal to refuse a lift to blind passenger with a guide dog, the driver became hostile and asked: ‘Are you threatening me?’ before hanging up.

Social media student Charles Bloch, 22, was told by a driver that his guide dog Carlo, pictured, would not be allowed in his car as the dog was an ‘unclean animal’ and might ‘try to lick him’

Charles – who has been blind with cataracts since birth – complained to the company and the driver called back and offered to give them a lift free of charge.

The offer was refused and Charles booked another taxi.

De Montford University student Charles – who lives in Leicester city centre – said: ‘He didn’t say exactly what religion he was but that his beliefs said that dogs were unclean animals.

‘He asked if my dog would lick him because guide dogs have to sit in the front passenger seat. It was a very bizarre thing to say.

‘I told him no because Carlo is so well-tempered. I told him it was against the law not to carry a guide dog and that the only reason he could refuse was if he was allergic to dogs.

‘But he was quite abrupt and asked if I was threatening him.

‘I felt disheartened and quite let down. It was a shocking moment.

‘It was quite intimidating. It was my first time using Uber but this experience has put me off using them for life.’

In March 2003, the Disability Discrimination Act was extended to make it illegal for minicab drivers to refuse to carry guide dogs for blind passengers.

Charles used the taxi firm’s smart phone app to call a cab to take himself and two-year-old Labrador Carlo to the park

An Uber spokesman said: ‘We would like to again extend our sincere apologies to Mr Bloch.

‘It is not acceptable to refuse guide dogs.

‘While the licensed drivers who use our app are self-employed, we remind them of their legal obligation to take service animals before they can start driving.

‘Any Uber partner-driver who doesn’t accept service animals not only risks having their Uber partnership revoked but also risks having their private hire licence taken away.’

Last week blind Jade Sharpe 23, from Roehampton, London, took Uber to court for a fifth time for allegedly refusing to give lifts to her and guide dog Brodie.

She claims Uber drivers have turned them down nine times since March last year and her evidence has led to the conviction of four of its cabbies for breaching equality laws.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

Apr 27

Uber drivers licensed with Transport for London are flooding into Bristol for work

Uber cars from London are flooding into Bristol for work, leaving local taxi drivers angry and out of pocket. Dozens of the private hire cars have been spotted taking fares in the city – even though they are licensed in the capital.

Taxi drivers based in Bristol say it is damaging to point they have considered strike action in a bid for authorities to clamp down on the influx.

It is not illegal for Uber drivers based elsewhere to work in Bristol, as long as they fill the right licensing criteria. But Transport for London, which licenses taxis in the capital, said a ‘grey area’ could make it easier for cabbies based in the capital to take jobs in Bristol.

Photos sent to the Post reveal scores of Uber cabs registered to TfL working in Bristol.

“It’s affected everyone’s earnings to a point where I’m probably at least 10 to 15 per cent down on what I was earning last year,” said Bristol-based driver Bill Sawyer, who has been taking fares in the city for 26 years.

“They’re quite clearly working here full time and nothing is being done about it.”

Mr Sawyer, who drives for V Cars and also works for Uber occasionally, is one of dozens of drivers angry that London-drivers are taking fares in Bristol. A WhatsApp group used by more than 250 taxi drivers in Bristol is now being used regularly to point out TfL-licensed cars.

An Uber spokesman said the company, which works in 60 countries, encourages its drivers to work in the authority they are licensed – but ‘does not instruct partners on where they should work’.

He added: “Private hire drivers are able to start or end a trip anywhere in the UK provided that their private hire licence and vehicle licence match the licensed operator that processes their booking.”

Mr Sawyer said he has been picked up by London-licensed drivers when using Uber as a passenger, but that some of those drivers have insisted they are Bristol-based. Striking was ‘a serious consideration’, he said.

A Transport for London spokesman said working between cities is legal ‘as long as the booking goes through’ where a driver is licensed.

“It’s a grey area because you don’t know how the booking is accepted, so if the booking is accepted in London then it’s legal,” he said.

“If a driver is licensed and their vehicle is licensed and the operator is licensed in the same place, they can then operate in other parts of the country. With Uber there is an operating centre in London and as long as a driver and vehicle are licensed they could go and work in Bristol.”

A Bristol City Council spokesman said: “Private hire operators can perfectly legally subcontract bookings between operators.”

Read more: http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/

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