SOUTHAMPTON’S cabbies fear they could be driven out of business

SOUTHAMPTON’S cabbies fear they could be driven out of business by a new council crackdown on pollution.

Angry taxi drivers are demanding a meeting with civic chiefs over plans to ditch ageing petrol and diesel cars for new low-emission vehicles.

But according to the city’s taxi groups, some of the electric and hybrid cars, being touted in a new council consultation, cost as much as £50,000.

Southampton Hackey Association (SHA), Ian Hall, fears this could drive already hard-pressed cabbies out of the business.

Mr Hall, a taxi driver of more than 35 years, said: “Southampton City Council is expecting us to buy these purpose built vehicles.“But some of the electric ones cost as much as £50,000.“There is no chance in a million of us being able to pay that for electric vehicles because we haven’t got the work in Southampton that they have for example in London.”

Mr Hall, who has urged the council to have a meeting with drivers, added: “I don’t think it’s fair that they are targeting taxi drivers and private hire vehicles.”

“We’ve got these big ships calling in at the port all the time. Surely they should be targeting them first?”

The city council’s online consultation, which ends on Monday, asks drivers about their preferred choice of vehicle, including hybrid, electric and hydrogen powered cars.

It also asks how the authority can financially support those taxi and private hire drivers who wish to ‘go green’.

The move comes after council chiefs secured a £250,000 grant from the government to help taxi drivers get compliant with the authority’s incoming Clean Air Zone (CAZ).

Civic bosses hope the zone, which could be enforced as early as 2019, will help tackle the problem of high nitrous oxide level in the city.

The authority hope to achieve this by introducing a penalty charge for high-emission vehicles, such as older buses, coaches and lorries.

This could also include certain taxis and older more polluting cars.

In a statement, the city council said it was “required” to introduce a Clean Air Zone and a penalty charging system by the government.

To avoid the charge, vehicles will need to be a minimum “euro 6 standard” – the current lowest emission band and applied to all new car registrations on or after September 2015.

Petrol vehicles will need to be “euro 5” – which are those registered on or after January 2011.

Talking about the taxi consultation, a council spokesperson said: “The council is currently undertaking a feasibility study that will help guide how the city’s CAZ will work. Consultation on our findings, with the public and stakeholders, will take place in early 2018.

“Southampton City Council will also be looking to identify funding opportunities to support taxi operators who may choose to adopt this technology, although this is not a requirement of the Clean Air Zone.”

Former European Commissioner joins Uber policy board

Car-booking service Uber has appointed a former vice-president of the European Commission to its new public policy board.

Nellie Kroes spent 11 years with the European Union’s executive body as commissioner for competition and also head of its Digital Agenda initiative.

The board will advise the company on its global expansion and held its first meeting earlier this week.

In office, Ms Kroes criticised attempts to ban Uber in some European countries.

In 2014, she said he was “outraged” by a decision in a Brussels court to stop its drivers working in the city.

“This decision is not about protecting or helping passengers – it’s about protecting a taxi cartel,” she wrote on her official European Commission blog.

Others appointed to the board include Roberto Daniño, the former prime minister of Peru, ex-US secretary of transportation Ray LaHood and Allan Fels. previously chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission,

A spokesman for Uber told the BBC the board members were chosen because of their experience in public policy affecting the company and mix of nationalities.

“As Uber continues to expand globally and introduce innovative products, we’re encountering novel policy issues at the intersection of technology, transportation and competition,” the spokesman said.

“We know we don’t have all the answers and we’re excited to get guidance from this group of experienced leaders.”

The company’s international expansion has been followed by objections from taxi operators and governments.

In London, protests took place in January this year because black cab drivers said the service was “unfair competition”, although the city’s transport authority, Transport for London, disagreed. In France, the government intervened to close a version of the app following nationwide protests by taxi drivers last summer.

Uber’s chief advisor David Plouffe said the company believed car-booking apps would form a part of transport networks worldwide and the new public policy group would offer advice on the challenges the company faces.

“Uber has a reputation for getting straight to the point (sometimes a little too quickly) and we want their feedback to be equally direct,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

McGhee could not be reached.

source: The Sunday Herald

Commons Questions – Electric Vehicles

Electric Vehicles

Department for Transport written question – answered on 25th April 2016.

Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what support his Department is offering to local authorities to promote the provision of electric car charging points.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

This Government has committed to spend more than £600 million in this Parliament to support the uptake and manufacturing of electric vehicles in the UK. 61 Local Authorities have already benefitted from £12.8m of funding to deploy chargepoints across the UK. This included 253 rapid chargepoints and 587 fast chargepoints in train stations and public sector workplaces. The UK now has over 11,000 public chargepoints.

In January Bristol, London, Milton Keynes and Nottingham were awarded funding of £35 million to promote green vehicles, as winners of the Go Ultra Low city scheme. A further £5m was awarded to the North East Combined Authority, Dundee, York and Oxford. We estimate that this scheme will deliver around 750 new publically accessible charge points. Our Local Authority-led schemes for low emission buses and taxis will also contribute towards the cost of new charging infrastructure, and we will shortly announce details of further support for the UK’s growing charging network.

In addition to public infrastructure provision, grants of £500 are available towards the cost of installing a domestic chargepoint, with over 18,000 now installed.