Sandwell private hire drivers could strike

Hundreds of private hire workers attended a crunch meeting last night called over grievances about Sandwell Council’s taxi policies.

Private hire representatives feel workers are charged too much for licences and are made to undergo more stringent tests than in other areas

They have also complained that it costs more in the borough to get a licence than other places, such as Wolverhampton, while there is only one specialist garage for cars to be checked, which they say means they are often waiting weeks for their cars to be confirmed as road ready.

Mohammad Namiz, who represents private hire drivers in Sandwell, said he believed policy differences between boroughs mean drivers will go elsewhere to get their licence but will still end up driving in Sandwell.

He also said tests have been made harder and that people who are not fluent in English may be stopped from becoming a driver. A three-year licence application in Sandwell costs £352 and when medical costs are added, some drivers feel the amount is too high.

Mr Namiz said: “If you want to become a taxi driver in Sandwell you could be waiting up to a year. In other boroughs you can get a licence within weeks. Before there were 15 questions but they have put it up to 50 and you have to get 45 right. They are not reducing prices, they are not giving us more garages – they are putting the prices up.”

Angry drivers met in Smethwick last night to discuss their next step and have insisted the situation must change. Mr Namiz, from Oldbury, believes council bosses have not listened to their arguments and suggested drivers could strike if changes are not made.

He said: “What’s stopping us going to Wolverhampton and paying less to get a plate? There is no communication with the drivers. They are all fed up. I am not recommending anything at the moment but they are not going to be treated like this.”

Councillor Elaine Costigan, cabinet member for health and protection at Sandwell Council, said: “The council is working to streamline our processes and improve efficiency by allowing applicants to apply online. This will speed up the process and hopefully reduce costs. Its hoped that this service will go live early in 2018.

“We are able to process a vehicle application and issue a licence within two hours if the vehicle passes the test and all other requirements are met. No other authority locally can provide this service. We have one garage at the council’s transport depot that does all the vehicle testing for the authority, but drivers are able to get their vehicle repaired elsewhere.”

source: https://www.expressandstar.com

Uber deserved to lose its licence – Londoners’ safety must come first

Our city is a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship. That’s because it’s renowned as a place where everyone has to play by the same rules

From the steam engine to the web, Britain has a long history of inventing and embracing brilliant new technology, often with London leading the way with the very latest developments.

In recent years, we have seen great leaps forward in areas such as green technology, medical innovations and contactless payments on the underground, but also with mobile phone applications that can make the lives of Londoners easier – whether it’s ordering food, renting a flat or doing financial transactions.

As we move through the next stage of 21st century innovation, I want London to continue to be at the forefront of these developments and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service.

I welcome and embrace these innovations – not only because they can improve the everyday lives of Londoners, but because they can spark new ideas for business, new possibilities for jobs in our city and new opportunities to cement London as a global capital of digital technology.

However, as with every other sector doing business in this city, from the financial services to manufacturing, all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect – above all when it comes to the safety of customers.

Providing an innovative service is not an excuse for it being unsafe.

Today, Transport for London has made the formal decision not to renew Uber’s operating licence. This was made independently by TfL as the regulator. I know this decision will be controversial in some quarters. Uber has become a popular service for many Londoners. But I fully understand the decision that has been taken.

It would be simply wrong for TfL to continue to license Uber if there was any way this could pose a threat to Londoners’ safety or security. TfL has said it believes Uber’s conduct demonstrates a lack of corporate responsibility around a number of issues that have potential public safety and security implications. These include Uber’s approach to reporting serious criminal offences, and the way it obtains medical certificates and security checks (Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service) for their drivers.

All private-hire operators in London need to play by the rules. The safety and security of customers must be paramount.

Uber’s current licence does not expire until the end of September so the service will continue, for now. The company will also be able to continue to operate until the appeals process has been exhausted.

Around the world, new private-hire vehicle companies and other disruptive technology businesses are springing up all the time, with new and different ways of working. We know it is possible to combine innovative technology within these fields while also ensuring the necessary safety standards are met. It would not be right for exceptions to be made.

I have repeatedly said the regulatory environment is critical in protecting Londoners’ safety, maintaining workplace standards for drivers and sustaining a vibrant taxi and private hire market with space for a range of providers to flourish. It is not simply regulation for regulation’s sake.

One of the reasons why London has become such a success with international business over centuries is because of our professionalism and sense of British fair play, with transparent rules, laws and regulations. This ensures that all companies are treated equally – something we would never want to lose.

I suspect it will take some time before this situation with Uber fully plays out. In the meantime, I will continue my work to help support innovative businesses in London and to create a vibrant and safe taxi and private hire market.

During the mayoral election, I promised I would be the most pro-business mayor London has ever had. That promise is reflected in the work we are doing from City Hall to support companies and entrepreneurs who are reinventing and reviving many of our traditional business sectors.

As we go forward in the months and years ahead, I know London will continue to be an incredible hotbed of innovation and new technology, as well as a city where businesses understand that they have no choice but to adhere to the rules like everyone else – especially when it comes to the safety of Londoners.

• Sadiq Khan is the mayor of London

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

Tough new rules say all Scunthorpe Hackney Carriages must be white and female drivers can’t wear short skirts

The new rules have been laid down by North Lincolnshire Council, with all cabs to be white by December 2023

Tough new rules for cabbies including a ban on female drivers wearing short skirts are to be introduced by North Lincolnshire Council.

Under a new policy agreed by the authority’s licensing committee today (Thursday, September 21) all Hackney Carriage vehicles will have to be white by December 2023.

Committee members were told a standard livery was required to ensure the cabs were easily recognisable to members of the public.

All new and replacement vehicles will have have to conform to the new livery requirement before the deadline in six years’ time.

But Councillor Carl Sherwood was concerned passengers might have problems with the new livery as there were lots of white vehicles around.
Licensing manager Nick Bramhill pointed out the cars carried plenty of signage.

Female taxi drivers will be banned from wearing short skirts under new rules.

Councillor Steve Swift felt the new livery requirement did not go far enough and suggested extra markings on the vehicles.

Mr Bramhill said the trade bodies were quite happy with the rule as white vehicles were easier to source.

Under the new policy, applicants for licences will also have to demonstrate they are able to read and write in English.

Cabbies who have other driving jobs will be required to keep a record of the hours they drive – even on private land.

Operators of cabs fitted with CCTV systems will have to ensure they are registered with the Information Commissioner.

Cabs will also have to be fitted with child seats and drivers will be held responsible for the safety of children.

Drivers will be required to disclose all their previous convictions, regardless of whether or not they would be regarded as spent under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.

And for the first time, smoking electronic cigarettes in taxis will see drivers have points docked off their licence.

The licensing watchdogs also agreed to amend the dress code for cabbies.

Ear-muffs and scarves covering the face are banned, while headwear except for religious headwear including skull caps and turbans will also not be allowed.

Football shirts, flip-flops and skirts shorter than knee-length have also been banned, while offensive tattoos have to be covered up.

In a further change, operators will be able for the first time to buy and display private registration plates from the council for a £150 fee renewable at the rate of £50 every year.

The number plate must not be offensive and contain between three and five digits with at least one number at the end.

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

Uber chief executive Kalanick resigns

Uber boss Travis Kalanick has resigned as chief executive after pressure from shareholders.

Mr Kalanick will remain on the board of the firm, however.

His resignation comes after a review of practices at the firm and scandals including complaints of sexual harassment.

Last week he said he was taking an indefinite leave of absence following the sudden death of his mother in a boating accident.

‘Bold decision’

Five major Uber investors demanded Mr Kalanick’s immediate resignation in a letter on Tuesday, the New York Times said.

Mr. Kalanick reportedly said: “I love Uber more than anything in the world and at this difficult moment in my personal life I have accepted the investors request to step aside so that Uber can go back to building rather than be distracted with another fight.”

Uber’s board said in a statement: “Travis has always put Uber first. This is a bold decision and a sign of his devotion and love for Uber.

“By stepping away, he’s taking the time to heal from his personal tragedy while giving the company room to fully embrace this new chapter in Uber’s history. We look forward to continuing to serve with him on the board.”

‘Uphill climb’

Dan Primack, business editor of the Axios news service, was one of the first to report the investor demands for Mr Kalanick to go.

Mr Primack said a group of investors, but particularly Bill Gurley of venture capitalist firm Benchmark, had put pressure on Mr Kalanick to resign.

“It’s important to note: Travis controlled the board in terms of votes, so really, it was a vey big uphill climb for [Mr] Gurley and the other investors to get this done,” Mr Primack said.

Uber’s future prospects were now “pretty bright”, Mr Primack added.

The firm has been searching for a chief operating officer, but now can seek out Fortune 500 chief executives to take over the top spot, he said.

Scandals

The ride-hailing company has had a series of recent controversies, including the departure of other high-level executives.

Eric Alexander, the former head of Uber’s Asia-Pacific business, left after a report that he had obtained the medical records of a woman who was raped by an Uber driver in 2014.

Mr Alexander reportedly shared them with Mr Kalanick, senior vice-president Emil Michael and others.

Mr Alexander was fired earlier this month, and Mr Michael later left Uber.

Board member David Bonderman made a sexist remark at a meeting about workplace practice recommendations last week and then resigned as a director.

This month Uber said it had fired more than 20 staff and had taken action against others following a review of more than 200 HR complaints that included harassment and bullying.

There has also been a lawsuit from Google’s parent company, Alphabet, over alleged theft of trade secrets related to driverless cars.

In February Uber said it was investigating “abhorrent” sexual harassment claims made by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler.

source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-40351859

Taxi reforms on the cards in Wales

THE system licensing taxis and private hire vehicles in Wales is to be reformed, it has been announced.

Control over the licensing of taxis and private hire vehicles will be devolved to the Welsh Government early next year.

And, yesterday, Wales’ economy and infrastructure secretary Ken Skates announced plans to revamp the system.

Speaking in the Senedd Mr Skates said the reform would form part of a wider revamp of public transport in Wales, including the South Wales Metro.

“When these planned improvements to rail and bus services are implemented, there will remain communities within our society for which public transport is simply not available or a viable alternative to use of a private motor vehicle,” he said.

“Taxi and private hire services are, therefore, an essential aspect of the transport network here in Wales.

“Taxis and private hire vehicles provide a vital public service, connecting people to places when alternative public transport services are not available or viable.

“The contribution that the sector makes to the night-time and tourism economy in many of our communities should not be underestimated.”

But he said the legal framework governing taxis has not been significantly reformed for more than 200 years, while the most recent legislation relating to private hire vehicles outside of London dates back to 1976 and this, along with more recent developments such as mobile phone-based booking apps such as Uber, had resulted in “a complex and fragmented licensing system”.

Mr Skates announced a consultation into the planned changes, due to begin shortly after next month’s General Election.

He said he hoped the new rules would protect licensed drivers from exploitation by rogue firms, as well as ensure customers had the best service possible. He added he also hoped he would be able to make it easier for drivers to work across local authority borders.

“Above all, we have a duty to ensure that the licensing arrangement in Wales safeguards the public and prevents the exploitation of the professional drivers that are delivering these very important services across our communities,” he said.

There are around 9,200 licensed taxi and private hire drivers in Wales.

Details of the reforms are yet to be confirmed.

 

source: http://www.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/gwentnews/15305277.Taxi_reforms_on_the_cards_in_Wales/

Law change provides equal treatment for disabled taxi users

Law change makes it illegal for taxi drivers to discriminate against wheelchair users.

Commons Questions – Taxis: South Yorkshire

Taxis: South Yorkshire

Department for Transport written question – answered on 29th March 2017.

Louise Haigh Shadow Minister (Culture, Media and Sport) (Digital Economy)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, if he will make an assessment of the specific requirements of South Yorkshire in relation to taxi and private hire licensing; and if he will make a statement.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The legislation that provides for licensing of taxi and private hire vehicle (PHV) services is enabling in its nature, giving local licensing authorities the discretion to set standards that they deem to be appropriate. The Department does not therefore undertake assessments of the licensing requirements of individual authorities.

The Government will shortly consult on Statutory Guidance in relation to the protection of children and vulnerable adults when using taxi and PHV services. The adoption of these measures among licensing authorities will be assessed.

Commons Questions – Taxis: Assistance Dogs

Taxis: Assistance Dogs

Department for Transport written question – answered on 29th March 2017.

 

Roger Godsiff Labour, Birmingham, Hall Green

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps the Government is taking to ensure that assistance dog owners are able to access taxis and minicabs.

 

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Drivers of taxis and PHVs must by law carry assistance dogs and cannot charge extra for doing so. It is therefore unacceptable that some drivers continue to discriminate in this way.

We aim to consult later this year on revised best practice for licensing authorities which will include strengthened recommendations relating to authorities’ response to alleged instances of assistance dog refusal.

More problems on the horizon for Uber

Until now, it’s Uber’s corporation tax dodging that has come under public scrutiny. Its VAT liability -not so much. But all that’s about to change.

Uber’s VAT problem arises out of a basic tension in its business model. The Uber brand is all about selling to passengers. The very front page of its website invites passengers to “Ride with Uber.” But its contracts pretend – as the Employment Tribunal found last year – that it is selling not to passengers but instead to drivers. And facing in two directions at once is always going to cause you problems.

And the VAT problem it causes is this: Uber’s contracts says its drivers are supplying passengers with transport services. And the Employment Tribunal agreed that passengers were being supplied with transport services. But it said that the passengers were being supplied with those services not by the drivers but by Uber.

And all of this matters because the drivers are below the VAT threshold. They earn, by and large, less than £83,000 a year and so, if they are supplying transport services to passengers, they don’t have to charge VAT.

But if Uber is supplying transport services to passengers for VAT purposes, well, we know it earns more than £83,000 a year. And so it has to charge VAT. And then something has to give.

The drivers get paid less or fares go up or Uber’s commission falls.

And there’s also a pretty big hit to Uber’s balance sheet. It will owe HMRC very substantial back tax: all the VAT it hasn’t paid over the last four years. And it will very likely owe back taxes not just in the UK but all across Europe.

Now, it’s really HMRC that should be having this fight with Uber. But it’s got a feeble record of taking on the big US tech companies.

And at the Good Law Project – which is bringing this fight – we’re not confident that it’s up for this fight. And so we’re going to take Uber on.

Our director is a Queen’s Counsel, specialising in tax. And we’ve taken formal advice from another Queen’s Counsel, also specialising in tax. And they both reckon Uber should be charging VAT.

So next week we’re going to launch our challenge. Check it out over at http://www.GoodLawProject.org. The Queen’s Counsel and solicitors who will act in the challenge will do so at very discounted rates.

But Uber is a mighty beast – you don’t need us to tell you that. And so, if we’re going to have this fight, we’ll need all the financial help you can give us.

So please, come on over, sign up for email updates, have a look and if you can – when we launch the case – make a contribution to the costs.

 

Link to crowdfunding – https://www.crowdjustice.org/case/uber/

 

source and thanks to our friends at: : London Cab Drivers Club