Solihull’s Uber taxi row

SOLIHULL is considering joining with other neighbouring authorities who are united in opposition to Wolverhampton’s licensing of Uber taxis uncutting the borough’s licenced cabbies.

The Observer understands West Midlands councils including Solihull are considering a joint approach to government against licensing deregulation which has led to ride-hailing US firms such as Uber driving down prices in Solihull and the region.

Councillors say it has led to a ‘race the the bottom’, with passenger safety compromised by an alleged lack of driver training, and pay and holiday and sickness rights being driven down.

Elsewhere in the region, notably in Coventry, councils are joining with taxi drivers and trades unions to campaign against Wolverhampton’s liberal handing out of licenses to the new ‘out-of-town’ companies, which can operate across council borders.

Yet many passengers have welcomed the lower fares and phone tracking service of App-based Uber.

It includes ‘ride sharing’ and hailing a nearby taxi promptly using a mobile phone.

The company has been banned from London streets over safety fears, while critics have called the clampdown and infringement on the free market, and town hall and union protectionism.

Councils in turn say deregulation has broken the historic link between a local area and taxi licensing based on meeting needs and demand, with democratic accountability through local authorities.

They claim Wolverhampton doesn’t have the same standard of English language requirements, disabilities training, child sexual exploitation training, any local knowledge test, or six- monthly vehicle checks

But more than 800,000 people have signed a petition on the change. org website to save Uber as the firm fights the London ban.

The capital’s transport officials and mayor Sadiq Khan stripped it of its licence. Uber is appealing and it is hoped a compromise can be reached without major job losses among drivers.

Uber claims safety is of the highest importance and drivers go through enhanced background checks.

It claims its technology has gone further to improve safety, with trips tracked and recorded by GPS satellite navigation systems.

London Assembly Tories claim analysis shows Uber is 40 per cent cheaper than black cabs, and a ban will cost Londoners an extra £90million a year in fares.

Max McLoughlin, Solihull Green councillor, said: “This is a serious problem. We give a great deal of power to taxi drivers. We let them drive in places that other cars can’t. We allow them alone, in a locked space, with vulnerable people. It’s only right that a local authority says who can and can’t drive a taxi there.”

“This isn’t the case anymore and we’re seeing a race to the bottom on standards and safety. Councils like Solihull, who prioritise safety, end up losing out financially.

“This isn’t a problem with one local council or taxi company. This is a problem with one piece of legislation passed in 2015.

“If Solihull council aren’t satisfied that someone should have a taxi license, why should we have to pay for them when they appear on our streets?

“It means that council tax payers in Solihull are subsidising another local authority on a get rich quick scheme.”

“The responsibility lies with government and our MPs. They’ve made local authorities so cash poor that some will tread on others to balance the books. Not only that, they’ve also given them the tools to do so in the Deregulation Act 2015.”

source: https://solihullobserver.co.uk/