Button on Taxis Licensing Law and Practice

Press release

Child Exploitation and App-Based Taxis Force New Look at Taxi Licensing Law

 

In Rotherham, for decades, licensed taxi drivers ferried children between addresses where they were sexually assaulted by organised gangs, revealing that criminals were being licensed to drive taxis despite a “fit and proper persons” regime being in place.

Last week, Brighton City Council renewed Uber’s licence to operate in the city, but only for six months whilst the dust settled on the London decision to revoke Uber’s license and a clearer picture emerges from this test case.

The taxi licensing landscape is changing dramatically as stakeholders grapple with fundamental issues such as passenger safety, driver rights and game-changing leaps in technology.

A new edition of Button on Taxis, could, therefore, not be more timely.

Stretching to a bumper 1,648 pages, Button on Taxis, Fourth Edition, provides the much needed analysis of licensing law that will enable authorities and operators to navigate the new landscape and forge a way forward, ensuring the welfare of customers and drivers are kept at the heart of this essential service.

With clear explanations of the law and procedure relating to the licensing of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles in England and Wales, including London, the new edition highlights the overlaps and conflicts that exist, so providing invaluable analysis and commentary.

This edition updates the text to take account of changes to legislation, case law and Guidance, including important Senior Court decisions relating to adoption of legislation, local authority decision-making processes, licence fees, Hackney carriage ranks, suitability of drivers and action against licensed drivers and vehicles.

Legislative changes include extensions to the duration of certain licences, the ability for private hire operators to subcontract across local authority boundaries and the need for Immigration checks for drivers and operators.

This invaluable reference book also includes coverage of many other important areas, including: the licensing decision process, appeal mechanisms; licence fees; and the impact of criminal convictions.

Procedural flowcharts and exhaustive coverage of case law, by means of summaries and discussion, help to further illustrate the subject.

About the author

James Button is a solicitor and principal of James Button and Co, a niche licensing, environmental health and public health practice. Formerly a local authority solicitor, he has over 25 years’ experience in taxi licensing. Currently president of the Institute of Licensing, he is a well-known and popular lecturer, specialising in licensing and environmental health issues, and has written and contributed to many other works.

About the book

Author: James T H Button
ISBN: 9781780434933
Published: 13-11-2017
Format: Hardback
Extent: 1,648 pp
RRP: £115

 

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York Council chiefs refuse to renew Uber’s licence in York

Council chiefs have refused to renew the taxi-hailing company Uber’s licence to operate in York. Members of York Council’s Gambling, Licensing and Regulatory Committee tonight debated for more than two hours over Uber Britannia Limited’s application. The company’s current 12-month licence is due to expire on Christmas Eve.

Councillors concluded that the taxi-hailing firm was not a fit and proper person – a required condition to refuse an application of its kind. A spokesperson for York Council said: “The application by Uber Britannia Ltd to renew its private hire operator’s licence in York has been considered by City of York Council’s Gambling, Licensing and Regulatory Committee tonight.

“Applying the legislation, the committee has decided to refuse the application having concerns about a data breach currently under investigation and the number of complaints received.”

Speaking after the meeting Neil McGonigle, general manager for Uber in York, said the company would now review the details of the decision. He said: “This is a disappointing vote for the riders and drivers who use our app in the city. “More choice and competition is a good thing for both consumers and licensed drivers in the area. “Passengers tell us they love being able to track their car on a live map, pay without cash and get a receipt with their fare and the route taken.

“Licensed drivers partner with us because with Uber they can choose if, when and where they drive. We will review the details of the decision once we receive the formal notice from the council.”

It comes after Transport for London refused to renew Uber’s licence on the grounds of “public safety and security implications” in September. The firm’s appeal against that decision in London will be heard by Westminster Magistrates’ Court in Spring next year. Uber Britannia Limited can lodge an appeal with the Magistrates’ Court over the latest decision by York Council.

Coun Sonja Crisp tabled a motion to refuse the application on the basis of the data breach that affected the 57 million customers and drivers in 2016. The second reason for refusal related to complaints made against the firm in York. The decision is the latest blow to hit the taxi-hailing company, after Uber had its licence suspended in Sheffield this week. The move came after the firm failed to respond to requests for information about its management.

Since December 2016, 296 complaints were made relating to hackney carriage and private hire vehicles or drivers in York up to November 22. York Council said 155 of these complaints related to Uber vehicles or drivers. But only four related to an Uber vehicle or driver licensed by the council – and 129 were made against those licensed by other local authorities, leading to councillors raising questions about the number of Uber drivers coming from outside York to work in the city.

Coun Dave Taylor, a member of the committee, said during the meeting: “This city needs to have control of its taxi services and it needs to have a level playing field and I don’t know if that means then national legislation aught to be tidied up. “But I don’t think that we can license a company which directs drivers to go around the houses, pumping up fair for customers, that tries to claim it has no liability for any claims, demands or losses, which claims to have a local office but never seems to staff it and the number of complaints against them is so high. “I think those are the grounds on which we can refuse this licence.”

Neil McGonigle, Uber Head of Cities, North of England, spoke in support of Uber at the meeting. He revealed that some 28,000 have used the company’s app in York in the last three months. Mr McGonigle said: “From our experience the passenger like the ability to press a button to request a car, take a trip without having to use cash at all and from a safety point of view, being able to track every element of that journey real-time.

“Whether that’s themselves, family members, friends or whatever through the app.” He said people from 73 different countries are now using the app in York, as Uber has recently taken on more international visitors in York.

The meeting was told licenses for Uber to operate had been refused in Reading, North Tyneside and Cardiff. Saf Din, chairman of York Hackney Carriage Association said he does not object to competition, but that Uber was not a “fair player” in the public transport game. Ahead of the decision, Mr Din told the meeting: “I urge you to be the most active members by refusing the application and offer no licence until you are fully satisfied.” He also handed over a petition regarding safeguarding of passengers, objecting to Uber’s licensing renewal.

Speaking during the debate tonight, Coun Suzie Mercer said: “I was still undecided having read the papers and I’m still undecided. “Everyone is just trying to do a job, you’ve got good apples and bad apples in all trades. “Uber is used all over the world by millions of people. In York it’s mainly the young people who use it and I think maybe as well it’s probably a young thing. “Out of town drivers wouldn’t come if there wasn’t any work and we must remember that if the public want it, then who are we to deny it?”

Uber driver licence standards should be made national, say MPs

A group of more than two dozen cross-party MPs have called on the government to introduce new rules controlling the licensing of drivers for Uber and other minicab services with new national standards.

Labour’s Wes Streeting and Jess Philips, and Green Party leader Caroline Lucas are among the 25 MPs to sign a letter to transport secretary Chris Grayling urging a new definition for cross-border hiring, along with taxi companies Gett and MyTaxi, the LTDA taxi union and the company making London’s newest electric black cabs.

Currently drivers can gain a licence in one area and work in another, something they claim is putting passengers at risk. Data from Transport for London (TfL) identified 177 drivers licensed in London registered to postcodes in Sheffield earlier this year, while drivers in Southend who had their licence revoked were found to be using ones gained from TfL.

Now the MPs, part of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on taxis, wants national standards for drivers to be introduced which would bring and end to the practice.

“The current system where a driver can lose a licence in one part of the country and simply get one by tapping up another council is playing fast and loose with passenger safety,” said Streeting. “The safety of passengers should be the cornerstone of licensing. That’s why we’re calling for a statutory definition on cross border hiring which will effectively stamp out this dangerous practice, alongside national minimum standards so when a passenger gets into a vehicle- wherever they are – they know they are safe.”

The call comes as Uber fights for permission to operate in London. TfL said it would not renew its licence due to safety concerns. Uber’s appeal against the decision is due to be heard next year while it continues talks with the regulator.

Uber has previously said that it would welcome a national register as a first step in “a more joined up approach” and has introduced new processes for keeping tabs on local licencing decisions. “An increase in app-based taxi and PHV services coupled with out of date legislation has contributed to a rise in cross-border hiring,” said MyTaxi general manager Andy Batty. “MyTaxi, is calling on government to legislate for a legal definition of cross-border hiring, which will give both passengers and regulators certainty of the standards of drivers in their area.”

The government has indicated that it’s considering new rules. “I think the system is being gamed,” said transport minister John Hayes over the summer, adding that it “can’t be right” that local rules can be undermined by more permissive neighbouring regimes. “I want greater consistency in the way licenses are issued,” he said.

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.