Minibus taxi safeguarding loophole must be fixed, councils urge

A “worrying” loophole that allows people to drive members of the public in minibuses without having a criminal record check must be solved by urgently updating taxi licensing laws, councils warned today.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils, says the safeguarding flaw is a huge loophole which is putting the public at an increased risk of harm, including those who may be more vulnerable after a night out.

Under current laws, drivers of Public Carriage Vehicles (PCVs) – those seating between nine and sixteen passengers – are licensed by the DVLA but are not subject to a criminal record check.

This contrasts with councils whose licensing of taxis – both hackney carriages and private hire vehicles (minicab) – requires drivers to produce an up-to-date enhanced criminal record check. Councils have the power to refuse or revoke a licence if a driver has convictions or cautions, or has behaved in a way that they believe renders the driver a risk to the public.

The loophole means that drivers refused a taxi or minicab licence, or whose licence has been revoked by councils, are obtaining a PCV licence and then continuing to operate in the same area – sometimes working for the same company. The drivers are effectively operating as licensed drivers by transporting members of the public around in larger vehicles, despite not having had the same checks or being deemed not ‘fit and proper’ to do so by the council.

The LGA says the loophole is undermining work to safeguard taxi passengers and is urging the Government to amend the law to ensure that 9-16 seater vehicles are licensed by councils in line with the requirements for taxis and minicabs. The Law Commission made recommendations on this in its 2014 report into taxi licensing, but the Government has yet to respond to the report or introduce a taxi reform Bill.

Examples of drivers who continue to drive members of the public despite councils determining that they pose a risk to passengers include:

A taxi driver whose licence was revoked following a conviction for harassment and further allegations of harassment and inappropriate conduct with a child was granted a PCV licence.

A taxi driver whose licence was refused for issues relating to misconduct – mainly with young female and vulnerable passengers – was granted a PCV licence within six months, working for the same company.

A taxi driver whose licence was revoked for inappropriate conduct with two young female passengers – specifically using data from booking and dispatch records to call and text them from his mobile phone – is working for the same taxi company as a PCV driver.

A man who, after being refused a taxi licence twice, drove his car through the barrier of the site where the councils’ officers were based in order to confront them, is now driving a 16-seat minibus taxi.

As larger minibus taxis become more commonplace, the LGA says that it is vital that the public receives the same level of protection regardless of whether they are using a standard sized taxi, minicab or minibus.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“The majority of PCV drivers will be people who the public can trust, but this loophole provides an opportunity for unscrupulous drivers to continue to work in close proximity to passengers, even when a council has determined that they are not safe to do so.

“Anyone who books or flags down a standard taxi has the reassurance that all drivers are vetted and licensed by councils. The same safeguarding checks should apply to anyone driving a nine to 16-seat minibus

“Larger minibuses are often sent in place of a regular taxi to pick up individuals or small parties, purely because they are nearest to the pick-up point rather than because there is a requirement for such a large vehicle. They are used to take groups of children to school, or to drive groups home after nights out.

“It is therefore extremely worrying that councils’ proactive work to protect taxi passengers from harm – and particularly those who may be most vulnerable – is being undermined by this loophole.

“We are urging the Government to act quickly to address this and bring PCVs into line with other local taxi licensing requirements.

“Two-and-a-half years after the Law Commission’s report into taxi licensing, this issue shows why it is vital that the Government introduces a Taxi Reform Bill to address this and the many other anomalies hindering our taxi licensing system.”

source: http://www.local.gov.uk/

Bristol: Taxi drivers filmed turning away disabled passengers

Taxi drivers in Bristol are breaking the law by turning away some disabled passengers, an ITV investigation has found.

The City Council says it will launch an inquiry after we filmed hackney drivers telling a woman in a wheelchair they couldn’t give her a lift.

Kate Sweetman, who uses an electric wheelchair because she has multiple sclerosis, missed a concert after travelling from her home in Chippenham to Bristol because no hackney cab could take her to the venue.

ITV West Country filmed with her in Bristol city centre as four out of five drivers she approached said they were unable to help:

Reasons they gave included the size of her chair or weight restrictions on their vehicles. One didn’t have suitable ramps to get Kate into the back of the vehicle. Kate says her chair is no wider than a manually operated one.

“It makes you feel like a second-class citizen,” she said. “It smacks your disability in your face. Everywhere should be suitable for anybody to use. Your human right should be for you to use anything the same as anybody else.”

The chair of the Public Safety and Protection Committee, Cllr Sultan Khan Chair, told us drivers were committing a criminal offence by not taking Kate.

“They shouldn’t be doing that,” he added. “We can suspend their licence, we can revoke it if necessary. The bottom line is the hackney vehicles are wheelchair accessible and nothing can prevent them from taking passengers, whatever their disability.”

He said the local authority would be investigating the findings and reviewing its policies. It also intends to carry out undercover spot-checks.
The City Council issues just under 1,000 hackney cab licences in Bristol.

The Bristol Disability Equality Forum told us Kate’s experience was ‘depressingly common’.

source: http://www.itv.com/

Uber driver used as courier in drugs bust

A former rugby star was convicted after copying the hit TV show Breaking Bad to rake in hundreds of thousands of pounds by cooking crystal meth.

Lorenzo Bocchini, 36, set up a hi-tech drugs laboratory in his luxurious Little Venice home, where police recovered £300,000 of drugs, £33,000 cash and a stun gun.

Crystal meth at the flat was found to have been dyed blue — the colour of a narcotic created by fictional drug baron Walter White in Breaking Bad.

Bocchini’s brother Alessandro, 43, was arrested along with his wife Justine, 36, in the same police operation eight months earlier at their Bayswater home.

Officers recovered crystal meth, MDMA and £12,210 in cash. The couple pleaded guilty to a string of drugs offences, including possession with intent to supply crystal meth, the designer drug mephedrone, ecstasy and cocaine. They were jailed earlier for six and four years respectively.

Footage seized from CCTV inside their home showed the pair counting thousands of pounds worth of cash just hours before they were raided.

Police say the family members ran a wholesale drugs distribution network using an Uber driver as a courier to transport packages to users around London, referring to the deliveries as “T-bags”.

A financial investigation identified £100,000 of drugs money went via the couple’s bank accounts in the six months before their arrest.

In total, detectives believe they have identified millions of pounds of assets, including a flat in Dubai.

The family were targeted by detectives from Lambeth police’s Omega drugs and firearms team in a long-running surveillance and intelligence operation. Detectives had been investigating a spate of deaths from chemsex drugs such as GHB, including fatalities at a gay sauna in Vauxhall.

Today Det Con Matt Clark, who led the investigation, said: “The Bocchini family were making significant profits selling highly dangerous and addictive class A drugs. What we uncovered was the wholesale supply of crystal methlyamphetamine and other drugs, focusing on the ‘chemsex’ scene in south London.

“The use of crystal meth within this scene is hugely damaging and we believe there are strong connections to drug deaths, rape and child sexual exploitation, links which we continue to investigate.”

Alessandro was identified as a supplier of wholesale amounts of crystal meth and police raided his Bayswater house last November.

His wife Justine, the mother of two young children, told officers as the pair were held: “It was a good life.” During interviews, both denied possessing or dealing drugs and Justine claimed she just “baked cup cakes”.

However, photographic evidence from Alessandro’s phone showed a kitchen table laden with crystal meth in a preparation phase prior to sale, with a text message from him that read: “Well cooked my little chef.”

His brother Lorenzo was due to be sentenced at Southwark crown court on December 1 for drugs supply offences. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

When officers raided his rented flat in July, as well as drugs and cash they found sachets of dye used to colour the crystal meth blue in an apparent copy of the Breaking Bad series.

Police say all three offenders grew hooked on the drugs they supplied.

Det Insp Stephen Payne, of Omega squad, said the case was unusual because none of the main offenders were previously known to police.

He added: “In that sense it was like the Breaking Bad scenario. These were professional people who made a choice to go into this venture. They were not career criminals but were looking for an opportunity to make money out of nothing.

“They lived a high-roller, Breaking Bad lifestyle, not really knowing what to do with the cash. They even seemed to adopt the Breaking Bad signature of dying their crystal meth blue.”

Lorenzo Bocchini played as a prop for two Italian club sides in his career between 2000 and 2010, including for Viadana in the Heineken Cup.
In 2010 he was named by the British press as one of the players from the L’Aquila club who helped survivors when an earthquake hit the town.

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

Calls for taxi drivers to undergo disability awareness training

Research shows nearly half of guide dog owners have been illegally refused a ride in the past year because of their animal.

That’s what MPs are discussing with the introduction of a Private Members Bill by Andrew Gwynne MP that is being debated in Parliament today.

According to the Guide Dogs charity, there is an ongoing issue with guide dog owners being illegally turned away by drivers who do not want to carry their dog.

New research by the charity shows 42% of blind or visually impaired people were significantly more likely to be turned away by drivers because of their dog, while 38% of guide dog owners have been illegally asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.

The charity said being discriminated against in this way is not only distressing, it can also stop people who are living with sight-loss do everyday things that most people take for granted.

Rosemary Howell, 28, is visually impaired and lives in rural Cambridgeshire.

She told Sky News she had been refused by three different taxi drivers because they did not want to take her dog, Una, who she has had for about two years.

The drivers had been given disability training but she said the experience left her feeling vulnerable and she would like there to be tougher penalties.

She said: “Even when I got in a taxi they didn’t seem that bothered and I felt very unwanted.

“Why should I have to be different from everyone else just because I have a disability and I have something that will help me?

“Taxi drivers need educating because then they might have a bit more empathy with service users who have guide dogs or assistance dogs because they understand that dog needs to go with the owner in the front.

“A lot of taxi companies say you have to have the dog in the boot, and you can’t have that because it has to go with the owner.

“If education is there to teach these people this is the law and this is what service dogs are, I think life for a disabled person will be a lot easier.”

Both the Licensed Private Hire Car Association and the National Taxi Association are backing the bill while Transport for London, which looks after 35% of England & Wales’ licensed vehicles, is introducing mandatory disability equality training for drivers.

Uber says any driver who refuses to take a guide dog will permanently lose access to its app and risks losing their licence.

source: http://news.sky.com/

Commons Questions: Tourism Action Plan

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, in reference to page 11 of the Tourism Action Plan, published in August 2016, whether deregulating an element of private hire vehicle licences will be carried out through primary legislation.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The deregulation of private hire vehicles licensing where transportation is an ancillary element of the service provided will require primary legislation.

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, in reference to page 11 of the Tourism Action Plan, published in August 2016, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on consumer safety of deregulating an element of private hire vehicle licences for owners of hotels to collect visitors from ports of entry.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Department for Transport is working with other departments including the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to consider how common sense regulation can be introduce where transport is an ancillary element of the service provided. Consumer safety remains the primary concern.

Dec 08

Minibus taxi safeguarding loophole must be fixed, councils urge

A “worrying” loophole that allows people to drive members of the public in minibuses without having a criminal record check must be solved by urgently updating taxi licensing laws, councils warned today.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents more than 370 councils, says the safeguarding flaw is a huge loophole which is putting the public at an increased risk of harm, including those who may be more vulnerable after a night out.

Under current laws, drivers of Public Carriage Vehicles (PCVs) – those seating between nine and sixteen passengers – are licensed by the DVLA but are not subject to a criminal record check.

This contrasts with councils whose licensing of taxis – both hackney carriages and private hire vehicles (minicab) – requires drivers to produce an up-to-date enhanced criminal record check. Councils have the power to refuse or revoke a licence if a driver has convictions or cautions, or has behaved in a way that they believe renders the driver a risk to the public.

The loophole means that drivers refused a taxi or minicab licence, or whose licence has been revoked by councils, are obtaining a PCV licence and then continuing to operate in the same area – sometimes working for the same company. The drivers are effectively operating as licensed drivers by transporting members of the public around in larger vehicles, despite not having had the same checks or being deemed not ‘fit and proper’ to do so by the council.

The LGA says the loophole is undermining work to safeguard taxi passengers and is urging the Government to amend the law to ensure that 9-16 seater vehicles are licensed by councils in line with the requirements for taxis and minicabs. The Law Commission made recommendations on this in its 2014 report into taxi licensing, but the Government has yet to respond to the report or introduce a taxi reform Bill.

Examples of drivers who continue to drive members of the public despite councils determining that they pose a risk to passengers include:

A taxi driver whose licence was revoked following a conviction for harassment and further allegations of harassment and inappropriate conduct with a child was granted a PCV licence.

A taxi driver whose licence was refused for issues relating to misconduct – mainly with young female and vulnerable passengers – was granted a PCV licence within six months, working for the same company.

A taxi driver whose licence was revoked for inappropriate conduct with two young female passengers – specifically using data from booking and dispatch records to call and text them from his mobile phone – is working for the same taxi company as a PCV driver.

A man who, after being refused a taxi licence twice, drove his car through the barrier of the site where the councils’ officers were based in order to confront them, is now driving a 16-seat minibus taxi.

As larger minibus taxis become more commonplace, the LGA says that it is vital that the public receives the same level of protection regardless of whether they are using a standard sized taxi, minicab or minibus.

Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:

“The majority of PCV drivers will be people who the public can trust, but this loophole provides an opportunity for unscrupulous drivers to continue to work in close proximity to passengers, even when a council has determined that they are not safe to do so.

“Anyone who books or flags down a standard taxi has the reassurance that all drivers are vetted and licensed by councils. The same safeguarding checks should apply to anyone driving a nine to 16-seat minibus

“Larger minibuses are often sent in place of a regular taxi to pick up individuals or small parties, purely because they are nearest to the pick-up point rather than because there is a requirement for such a large vehicle. They are used to take groups of children to school, or to drive groups home after nights out.

“It is therefore extremely worrying that councils’ proactive work to protect taxi passengers from harm – and particularly those who may be most vulnerable – is being undermined by this loophole.

“We are urging the Government to act quickly to address this and bring PCVs into line with other local taxi licensing requirements.

“Two-and-a-half years after the Law Commission’s report into taxi licensing, this issue shows why it is vital that the Government introduces a Taxi Reform Bill to address this and the many other anomalies hindering our taxi licensing system.”

source: http://www.local.gov.uk/

Dec 08

Bristol: Taxi drivers filmed turning away disabled passengers

Taxi drivers in Bristol are breaking the law by turning away some disabled passengers, an ITV investigation has found.

The City Council says it will launch an inquiry after we filmed hackney drivers telling a woman in a wheelchair they couldn’t give her a lift.

Kate Sweetman, who uses an electric wheelchair because she has multiple sclerosis, missed a concert after travelling from her home in Chippenham to Bristol because no hackney cab could take her to the venue.

ITV West Country filmed with her in Bristol city centre as four out of five drivers she approached said they were unable to help:

Reasons they gave included the size of her chair or weight restrictions on their vehicles. One didn’t have suitable ramps to get Kate into the back of the vehicle. Kate says her chair is no wider than a manually operated one.

“It makes you feel like a second-class citizen,” she said. “It smacks your disability in your face. Everywhere should be suitable for anybody to use. Your human right should be for you to use anything the same as anybody else.”

The chair of the Public Safety and Protection Committee, Cllr Sultan Khan Chair, told us drivers were committing a criminal offence by not taking Kate.

“They shouldn’t be doing that,” he added. “We can suspend their licence, we can revoke it if necessary. The bottom line is the hackney vehicles are wheelchair accessible and nothing can prevent them from taking passengers, whatever their disability.”

He said the local authority would be investigating the findings and reviewing its policies. It also intends to carry out undercover spot-checks.
The City Council issues just under 1,000 hackney cab licences in Bristol.

The Bristol Disability Equality Forum told us Kate’s experience was ‘depressingly common’.

source: http://www.itv.com/

Nov 19

Uber driver used as courier in drugs bust

A former rugby star was convicted after copying the hit TV show Breaking Bad to rake in hundreds of thousands of pounds by cooking crystal meth.

Lorenzo Bocchini, 36, set up a hi-tech drugs laboratory in his luxurious Little Venice home, where police recovered £300,000 of drugs, £33,000 cash and a stun gun.

Crystal meth at the flat was found to have been dyed blue — the colour of a narcotic created by fictional drug baron Walter White in Breaking Bad.

Bocchini’s brother Alessandro, 43, was arrested along with his wife Justine, 36, in the same police operation eight months earlier at their Bayswater home.

Officers recovered crystal meth, MDMA and £12,210 in cash. The couple pleaded guilty to a string of drugs offences, including possession with intent to supply crystal meth, the designer drug mephedrone, ecstasy and cocaine. They were jailed earlier for six and four years respectively.

Footage seized from CCTV inside their home showed the pair counting thousands of pounds worth of cash just hours before they were raided.

Police say the family members ran a wholesale drugs distribution network using an Uber driver as a courier to transport packages to users around London, referring to the deliveries as “T-bags”.

A financial investigation identified £100,000 of drugs money went via the couple’s bank accounts in the six months before their arrest.

In total, detectives believe they have identified millions of pounds of assets, including a flat in Dubai.

The family were targeted by detectives from Lambeth police’s Omega drugs and firearms team in a long-running surveillance and intelligence operation. Detectives had been investigating a spate of deaths from chemsex drugs such as GHB, including fatalities at a gay sauna in Vauxhall.

Today Det Con Matt Clark, who led the investigation, said: “The Bocchini family were making significant profits selling highly dangerous and addictive class A drugs. What we uncovered was the wholesale supply of crystal methlyamphetamine and other drugs, focusing on the ‘chemsex’ scene in south London.

“The use of crystal meth within this scene is hugely damaging and we believe there are strong connections to drug deaths, rape and child sexual exploitation, links which we continue to investigate.”

Alessandro was identified as a supplier of wholesale amounts of crystal meth and police raided his Bayswater house last November.

His wife Justine, the mother of two young children, told officers as the pair were held: “It was a good life.” During interviews, both denied possessing or dealing drugs and Justine claimed she just “baked cup cakes”.

However, photographic evidence from Alessandro’s phone showed a kitchen table laden with crystal meth in a preparation phase prior to sale, with a text message from him that read: “Well cooked my little chef.”

His brother Lorenzo was due to be sentenced at Southwark crown court on December 1 for drugs supply offences. He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

When officers raided his rented flat in July, as well as drugs and cash they found sachets of dye used to colour the crystal meth blue in an apparent copy of the Breaking Bad series.

Police say all three offenders grew hooked on the drugs they supplied.

Det Insp Stephen Payne, of Omega squad, said the case was unusual because none of the main offenders were previously known to police.

He added: “In that sense it was like the Breaking Bad scenario. These were professional people who made a choice to go into this venture. They were not career criminals but were looking for an opportunity to make money out of nothing.

“They lived a high-roller, Breaking Bad lifestyle, not really knowing what to do with the cash. They even seemed to adopt the Breaking Bad signature of dying their crystal meth blue.”

Lorenzo Bocchini played as a prop for two Italian club sides in his career between 2000 and 2010, including for Viadana in the Heineken Cup.
In 2010 he was named by the British press as one of the players from the L’Aquila club who helped survivors when an earthquake hit the town.

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

Nov 19

Calls for taxi drivers to undergo disability awareness training

Research shows nearly half of guide dog owners have been illegally refused a ride in the past year because of their animal.

That’s what MPs are discussing with the introduction of a Private Members Bill by Andrew Gwynne MP that is being debated in Parliament today.

According to the Guide Dogs charity, there is an ongoing issue with guide dog owners being illegally turned away by drivers who do not want to carry their dog.

New research by the charity shows 42% of blind or visually impaired people were significantly more likely to be turned away by drivers because of their dog, while 38% of guide dog owners have been illegally asked to pay an extra fare for carrying their dog.

The charity said being discriminated against in this way is not only distressing, it can also stop people who are living with sight-loss do everyday things that most people take for granted.

Rosemary Howell, 28, is visually impaired and lives in rural Cambridgeshire.

She told Sky News she had been refused by three different taxi drivers because they did not want to take her dog, Una, who she has had for about two years.

The drivers had been given disability training but she said the experience left her feeling vulnerable and she would like there to be tougher penalties.

She said: “Even when I got in a taxi they didn’t seem that bothered and I felt very unwanted.

“Why should I have to be different from everyone else just because I have a disability and I have something that will help me?

“Taxi drivers need educating because then they might have a bit more empathy with service users who have guide dogs or assistance dogs because they understand that dog needs to go with the owner in the front.

“A lot of taxi companies say you have to have the dog in the boot, and you can’t have that because it has to go with the owner.

“If education is there to teach these people this is the law and this is what service dogs are, I think life for a disabled person will be a lot easier.”

Both the Licensed Private Hire Car Association and the National Taxi Association are backing the bill while Transport for London, which looks after 35% of England & Wales’ licensed vehicles, is introducing mandatory disability equality training for drivers.

Uber says any driver who refuses to take a guide dog will permanently lose access to its app and risks losing their licence.

source: http://news.sky.com/

Nov 19

Commons Questions: Tourism Action Plan

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, in reference to page 11 of the Tourism Action Plan, published in August 2016, whether deregulating an element of private hire vehicle licences will be carried out through primary legislation.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The deregulation of private hire vehicles licensing where transportation is an ancillary element of the service provided will require primary legislation.

Daniel Zeichner Shadow Minister (Transport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, in reference to page 11 of the Tourism Action Plan, published in August 2016, what assessment his Department has made of the effect on consumer safety of deregulating an element of private hire vehicle licences for owners of hotels to collect visitors from ports of entry.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Department for Transport is working with other departments including the Home Office and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to consider how common sense regulation can be introduce where transport is an ancillary element of the service provided. Consumer safety remains the primary concern.

Nov 17

Uber driver murdered wife

Jose Leonardo was found guilty of murder

Jose Leonardo was found guilty of murder

Jose Leonardo, 56, knifed mum-of-three Maria Mbombo, 52, multiple times then left her to die at their home

An Uber driver who knifed his wife to death after googling “the most painful place to stab someone” has been convicted of her murder .

Jose Leonardo, 56, stabbed Maria Mbombo, 52, multiple times at their home in Belsize Park, west London, in May.

The mum-of-three died at the scene, a trial at the Old Bailey heard.

Prosecutor John Price QC said there was no dispute that Leonardo killed her , but he has claimed it was manslaughter by “loss of control”.

The taxi driver was found guilty of one count of murder, but cleared of one charge of perverting the course of justice.

The couple met in Holland in 1988 and moved to north-west London in 1993.

At the time of her death, Ms Mbombo was working as a cleaner while the defendant was a driver for the internet-based company Uber.

Shortly before midnight on May 18, the couple’s 23-year-old son Carl dialled 999 in tears.

Paramedics arrived to find him trying to resuscitate his mother on the floor of a bedroom.

The victim, who was wearing a white top and black knickers, was covered in blood and had been dead for “some while”, Mr Price said.

She had been alone with the defendant until her children returned home shortly before the 999 call, the court heard.

Maria Mbombo was knifed to death

Earlier that afternoon, the defendant’s mobile phone was used to search Google for “can I survive stab in the eye” and “most painful place to stab someone”.

The defendant was in his flat with his dead or dying wife for an hour or so as his other son Jacques, 27, banged on the door and screamed to get in.

After slipping out, Leonardo tried to buy a bottle of beer in a nearby convenience store but was refused.

The shopkeeper noticed blood on his jacket and asked “what’s that?” and Leonardo allegedly replied: “Just call the police.”

Officers arrived to find Leonardo wearing a white vest drenched in blood and murmuring “my wife is dead”.

Mr Price told jurors: “For all his statements of grief to the police officers at the hospital, the defendant, who will have been with her in their home whilst she slowly died, did nothing to summon help.”

Leonardo will be sentenced to life imprisonment at the Old Bailey at 10am on Tuesday, with his minimum term to be determined.

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

Nov 09

Commons Questions

Taxis: Licensing

Department for Transport written question – answered on 7th November 2016.

Royston Smith Conservative, Southampton, Itchen

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what powers local authorities possess to effectively regulate private hire vehicles that operate outside of their primary licensing area.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Local licensing authorities in England and Wales have a duty to ensure that any person or organisation to whom they grant a PHV operator’s licence is ‘fit and proper’ to hold such a licence. The same duty is required when granting a PHV driver licence. Furthermore, once a licence has been issued, licensing authorities should have systems in place, including links with the police and other licensing authorities, to ensure that drivers and operators continue to be ‘fit and proper’.

All PHV bookings, including those received by a sub-contracting arrangement, must be fulfilled by licensed PHV operators using licensed drivers and vehicles, all of whom have met their local licensing standards. The original operator who takes the booking will retain responsibility for the journey, and both the original operator and the operator who fulfils the booking will be under a duty to keep records of the booking and the relevant enforcement authorities will be able to check those records.

The sharing of information between licensing authorities is encouraged and the licence issuing authority can investigate complaints against a driver regardless of where the driver was working at the time. Local licensing authorities are also able to delegate powers to each other to help deal with issues such as taxis operating as private hire vehicles outside their licence area. For example, in Merseyside five licensing authorities have agreed a concordat allowing each other to enforce against all the vehicles and drivers licensed by the five areas.

 

Nov 01

Uber driver ‘murdered his wife after Googling “what is the most painful place to stab someone”‘

Jose Leonardo repeatedly knifed 52 year-old Maria Mbombo in the body and arms, jurors heard

AN UBER driver murdered his wife after searching on Google for ‘the most painful place to stab someone’, a court heard today.

Jose Leonardo repeatedly knifed 52 year-old Maria Mbombo in the body and arms and left her to bleed to death at their family home in north London, jurors heard.

Leonardo admits killing his wife Maria Mbombo claiming he lost ‘control’

He then went to buy beer from a local shop while his two sons discovered their mother lying lifeless on the floor of the bedroom, it is claimed.

Leonardo, 56, admits killing his wife but claims he should be cleared of murder because he suffered from a ‘loss of control’, jurors were told.

But prosecutor John Price QC revealed Leonardo’s phone had been used to search Google a few hours before the murder.

One read ‘can I survive stab in the eye’ and the other was ‘most painful place to stab someone’, the Old Bailey heard.

Websites related to these search terms were accessed between 2.41pm and 2.46pm.

Half an hour later Leonardo accessed a Camden Council parking permit website.

Mrs Mbombo, who worked as a cleaner, is last known to have used her phone to speak to a friend at 3.52pm.

Both her and Leonardo’s phones stopped being active from around 5pm.

Mr Price said: “Maria Mbombo died in her home at her husband’s hand.

“He attacked her and stabbed her many times with a knife.

“Because of the wounds he inflicted upon her, she bled to death. He was alone with her in their home while that happened.

“The prosecution allege that this is a clear case of murder.”

The couple met in 1988 and move to the UK from the Netherlands in 1990 with their two sons Carl, now 23, and Jacque, 27.

On 18 May this year Jacque returned to the family flat at Chestnut House, Maitland Park Villas, Belsize Park, to find the lights out and the door locked from the inside.

He got no answer despite buzzing and kicking the door and shouting ‘Open the Door’.

Mr Price said Leonardo must have been inside with his dead or dying wife at the time.

Leonardo left the flat an hour later without speaking to his sons and both Jacque and Carl ran inside to find their mother lying on her back on the bedroom floor.

She was wearing a white top and black knickers, her face was purple and she was not breathing.

Paramedics were called at 11.55pm and arrived to find her cold to the touch with rigor mortis in the jaw.

“It was confirmed she was dead and indeed must have been dead for some time,” said Mr Price.

Leonardo, who had cuts to his wrist, was arrested near the Super Choice Convenience Store in Queens Crescent after midnight.

He told officers: “My wife is killed.”

Leonardo, of Maitland Park Villas, Belsize Park, denies murder and perverting the course of justice.

The trial continues.

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

Nov 01

Uber loses right to classify UK drivers as self-employed

Landmark employment tribunal ruling states firm must also pay drivers national living wage and holiday pay with huge implications for gig economy

Uber drivers are not self-employed and should be paid the “national living wage”, a UK employment court has ruled in a landmark case which could affect tens of thousands of workers in the gig economy.

The ride-hailing app could now be open to claims from all of its 40,000 drivers in the UK, who are currently not entitled to holiday pay, pensions or other workers’ rights. Uber immediately said it would appeal against the ruling.

Employment experts said other firms with large self-employed workforces could now face scrutiny of their working practices and the UK’s biggest union, Unite, announced it was setting up a new unit to pursue cases of bogus self-employment.

Research by Citizens Advice has suggested that as many as 460,000 people could be falsely classified as self-employed, costing up to £314m a year in lost tax and employer national insurance contributions. Four courier firms are already facing legal action from cyclists who want similar recognition as staff employees and the rights that go with that status, while delivery firm Hermes is under investigation by HM Revenue & Customs.

The Uber ruling could force a rethink of the gig economy business model, where companies use apps and the internet to match customers with workers. The firms do not employ the workers, but take commission from their earnings, and many have become huge global enterprises. Uber now operates around the world, with the company valued at more than £50bn.

The decision of the employment tribunal comes amid mounting concern within government about the growing trend towards self-employed workforces. The government has recently announced a six-month review of modern working practices and HMRC is setting up a new unit, the employment status and intermediaries team, to investigate firms.

MPs launched an inquiry last week into pay and working conditions in the UK which will look at the status and rights of agency and casual workers and the self-employed for the purposes of tax, benefits and employment law, and how to protect them.

Friday’s ruling by a London employment tribunal involves a case taken by two drivers, James Farrar and Yaseen Aslam, on behalf of a group 19 Uber workers who argued that they were employed by the San Francisco-based firm, rather than working for themselves.

At a hearing in July, Farrar told how he was put under “tremendous pressure” to work long hours and accept jobs and said that there were “repercussions” from the company if he cancelled a pickup. He said some months he earned as little as £5 an hour – far below the £7.20 that employers are obliged to pay workers aged over 25.

Uber argued that it was a technology firm not a transport business and that its drivers were independent self-employed contractors who could choose where and when they worked.

The judges were scathing about Uber’s arguments, however, accusing the firm of “resorting in its documentation to fictions, twisted language and even brand new terminology” and even quoting Hamlet to suggest that the group’s UK boss was protesting too much about its position.

“The notion that Uber in London is a mosaic of 30,000 small businesses linked by a common ‘platform’ is to our minds faintly ridiculous,” the judges said. “Drivers do not and cannot negotiate with passengers … They are offered and accept trips strictly on Uber’s terms.”

Nigel Mackay from the employment team at law firm Leigh Day, which represented the drivers, said: “We are pleased that the employment tribunal has agreed with our arguments that drivers are entitled to the most basic workers’ rights, including to be paid the [national living wage] and to receive paid holiday, which were previously denied to them.

“This is a ground-breaking decision. It will impact not just on the thousands of Uber drivers working in this country, but on all workers in the so-called gig economy whose employers wrongly classify them as self-employed and deny them the rights to which they are entitled.”

The GMB union, which took up the case for the drivers, said that it was a “monumental victory” which would have an impact on thousands of workers in other industries “where bogus self-employment is rife”.

Maria Ludkin, GMB’s legal director, said: “Uber drivers and thousands of others caught in the bogus self-employment trap will now enjoy the same rights as employees. This outcome will be good for passengers, too. Properly rewarded drivers are the same side of the coin as drivers who are properly licensed and driving well-maintained and insured vehicles.”

Farrar said he was thrilled with the “emphatic” ruling. He said his industry had seen the deterioration in workers’ rights since Uber entered the market. “We’ve brought that to a halt,” he said.

Employment experts said that other firms with large self-employed workforces could now face similar action. “This judgment is likely to have massive implications, as we see an increasing number of start-up businesses effectively adopting Uber’s model,” said Tim Goodwin of law firm Winckworth Sherwood. “The effect of this judgment is that those kinds of business may owe a lot more to their workers, such as paid holiday and minimum wage, than they had bargained for.”
The ruling should be regarded as “ a salutary lesson by businesses who try to arbitrarily ‘classify’ workers as contractors to avoid affording them their full rights as workers,” Goodwin said.

The GMB’s Ludkin said employers should be “on notice” that it was reviewing similar contracts. “This is old-fashioned exploitation under new-fangled jargon, but the law will force you to pay GMB members what they are rightfully due,” she said.

There were calls for more clarity over employment status, with Citizens Advice pointing out that many people were locked out of employment tribunals by fees of up to £1,200.

“The fact it takes an employment tribunal to decide whether these drivers are self-employed shows that proving employment status is an extremely complicated and costly process,” said its chief executive, Gillian Guy. “For many people struggling at the sharp end of insecure work, such as in false self-employment, taking such a case is simply not an option.”

The ruling is not the end of the process for Uber. The firm will take the case to the employment appeal tribunal, and following its decision there could be further hearings in the court of appeal and then the supreme court. Any payments due to drivers will not be calculated until that process is over.

Other drivers with the firm will not automatically receive payouts but, if the firm accepts the ruling, it will have to change its contracts to avoid more cases being taken by drivers. Lawyers say that its terms and conditions are similar for all of its UK employees.

Jo Bertram, the regional general manager of Uber in the UK, said many of the firm’s drivers did not want to be classified as workers: “Tens of thousands of people in London drive with Uber precisely because they want to be self-employed and their own boss.

“The overwhelming majority of drivers who use the Uber app want to keep the freedom and flexibility of being able to drive when and where they want.”

Uber in numbers

40,000 The number of Uber drivers in the UK

£5 The hourly wage received in some months by one of the drivers who took the case.

$62.5bn Uber’s valuation based on its last round of funding.

Seven The years that Uber has been in operation.

460,000 The number of people who could be falsely classified as self-employed in the UK

£314m The yearly estimated cost in lost tax and employer national insurance contributions from falsely classified employees, according to Citizens Advice

source: https://www.theguardian.com/

Nov 01

Uber driver races the rising tide, and the tide wins

For some reason, people keep thinking they can outsmart Mother Nature, and Mother Nature always wins.

Take this uber driver, who either thought the tide would not rise for him or that his car would turn into a raft, Transformers-style.

Unfortunately, it didn’t end well – as this drone footage shows.

The driver was caught out at Holy Island, off the north east coast, while travelling back from Lindisfarne.

One of his passengers, a Buddhist monk, waves to the drone while the car is stopped on the only part of the bridge that wasn’t submerged.

Mark Bradshaw, from Seaton Burn, Tyne and Wear, posted the video on his YouTube channel.

He said: ‘I went out to Holy Island with a friend to take footage of the castle.

‘We saw the vehicle coming over from the island side. It was very brave of him and I decided to film him.

‘I was in the military for 24 years and I’ve seen lots of things but nothing as ridiculous as that.

‘One of the passengers got out and walked up and down, pondering what their next move was.

‘I guess they just had to wait for nature to take its course before they could leave.’

Eventually, the stranded driver and passengers were rescued, with footage showing a lifeboat pulling up to help them to safety.

Holy Island causeway has safe crossing times due to the high tide that covers the road – but it appears this driver ignored the advice.

Read more: http://metro.co.uk/

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