Tourism Action Plan

Policy paper

Tourism Action Plan

From: Department for Culture, Media & Sport and Tracey Crouch MP

First published: 26 August 2016

Part of: Tourism

This report outlines how the government will be supporting the tourism industry and ensuring the benefits of tourism will be felt across the United Kingdom


Link to plan document


Page 9

Commonsense Regulation

Working in partnership with the Tourism Industry Council, we have identified four areas of regulation where progress can be made to allow tourism businesses to flourish:

• We will seek to deregulate an element of Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) licences as soon as parliamentary time allows. This will allow owners of hotels/ attractions to collect visitors from train stations/ ports of entry, without having to apply for PHV licences (operator, vehicle and driver).

Bath & North East Somerset Council respond to concerns over Bath-operating Bristol-registered Ubers

Bath & North East Somerset Council has responded to concerns that Uber minicabs registered in Bristol are operating in Bath.

The council has said it is “considering” the issue, raised by one reader in response to last week’s Bath Chronicle story about the lack of availability of Uber cars in the city.

In the UK it is not illegal for private hire cars to take fares in areas other than the one in which they are registered.

But there are concerns Bath-registered cabs are losing business to Uber drivers based in the neighbouring city.

Earlier this year one Bristol cab driver told the Bristol Post he had lost “10 to 15 per cent” of his earnings on last year amid a rash of London-registered Ubers taking fares in Bristol.

Uber launched in Bath on June 24. A B&NES Council spokesman said: “The operation of Uber taxis in Bath & North East Somerset was discussed at a licencing committee hearing in October 2015.

“At that meeting questions were raised about the operation of Uber as it is a new entry into the marketplace. Officers have therefore continued to monitor the operation of Uber drivers in the district.

“The council is aware of concerns expressed over allegations that Uber drivers who are licensed in Bristol have been picking up fares in Bath & North East Somerset.

“These concerns are being considered by the council. The council aims to ensure that the public are protected and that private vehicle hire and hackney carriages operate safely and in accordance with their licensing requirements.”

As with any private hire company Uber cars can sometimes be called to take fares to destinations outside the area in which they are registered.

But as the app searches out the nearest cars as soon as a user requests one, Bristol-registered vehicles finished with taking fares to Bath can then be called on to take Bath jobs.

An Uber spokesman said the company, which now operates in more than 20 UK towns and cities, encourages its drivers to work in the authority where they are licensed but “does not instruct partners on where they should work”.

He added: “Private hire drivers are able to start or end a trip anywhere in the UK provided that their private hire licence and vehicle licence match the licensed operator that processes their booking.”


Drink-driving Sevenoaks minicab boss fined for operating without a licence

A former Sevenoaks minicab boss has been fined after being found guilty of operating without a licence.

Mohammed Abdul Jabbar, of Glyn Davies Close, was convicted of two counts of the offence at Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

The 31-year-old was fined £180 per count plus a £20 victim surcharge and £1,200 in costs, totalling £1,580.

Sevenoaks Taxis – the firm he used to run – was ordered to pay £4,600.

Sevenoaks District Council investigated allegations that Jabbar had been collecting fares without a licence and found CCTV footage of him taking fares on 2 and 24 August 2015, despite having his licence revoked for a drink driving offence in January 2014.

Sevenoaks Taxis did not attend court but was found guilty in its absence on three charges at the same court hearing and was fined £500 per count, plus £1,500 in costs and a £50 surcharge totalling £3,050.

A spokesman for the firm has previously said Jabbar is no longer anything to do with the business.

Councillor Anna Firth, Sevenoaks District Council portfolio holder for licensing, says: “We take the safety of the travelling public very seriously and we work hard to ensure drivers are fit and proper people to do the job.

“In this case a driver had no licence so wasn’t insured to pick up the public.

“Our licensing and legal teams worked hard to bring about this successful prosecution and the size of the fine and costs demonstrates the magistrates took the case seriously.

“I hope this prosecution sends out a warning to rogue drivers who are thinking about breaking the law.”

Sevenoaks Taxis has 28 days from the court cases to pay the £3,050 fine and costs. Jabbar has been ordered to pay his fine and costs at £40 a month.


Cumbrian health trust’s taxi bill to be raised with Prime Minister

The taxi bill of almost £600,000 chalked up by hospital bosses in north Cumbria is to be raised with the Prime Minister.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed reacted furiously to news that the NHS trust running Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital and The Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle spent £585,000 on taxis in three years.

That was the bill for nearly 13,000 taxi journeys, used to transport drugs, patient records, and patients.

The spending – revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request from the News & Star – came to light as North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust confirmed it faces a predicted £49.5m deficit.

“This is utterly scandalous,” said Mr Reed.

“It’s a diabolical illustration of the chaos caused by centralising services at Carlisle. “The patient and the taxpayer both lose out. The worst of it is: we told them so. I’ll be raising this with the Prime Minister.

“The government is presiding over a seemingly endless crisis and it must get a grip.”

One Whitehaven based NHS campaigner said a patient sent from the town to Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary recently saw her medical records, crammed into carrier bags, arrive at that hospital in a taxi.

Trust officials rejected the claim, saying drugs and medical records are always sent in secure packages or containers.

The News & Star’s investigation revealed that the trust routinely uses taxis to transport pathology samples, medical records, and patients, with some individual taxi trips costing more than £600.

Managers say patients are sent by taxi if using an ambulance is not appropriate and to beat treatment waiting time targets.

Siobhan Gearing, who started the We Need West Cumberland Hospital Campaign, said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous.

“How can they claim to be in financial difficulty when they’re spending nearly £600,000 on taxis over three years?

“It makes no sense at all. That money would be better spent on the services which, time and time again, they tell us they can’t afford to give us.”

Mrs Gearing, a mother-of-two, who has argued consistently that services at the West Cumberland Hospital should be protected, said using taxis also raised questions about patient confidentiality.

She said: “A lady told me yesterday that she was at The Cumberland Infirmary for an appointment when a taxi arrived there and dropped off three carrier bags filled with her medical records.

“That’s not a professional way to run a hospital.

“A patient’s medical records should only be transported in a sealed, tamper-proof packet. It would make more sense if they employed somebody in the trust to do this work.

“It’s a management failure.”

In its response to our Freedom of Information request, the trust confirmed that 2,800 of the taxi journeys it paid for in the last three years were between the hospitals in Whitehaven and Carlisle.

The most expensive taxi trips, taking patients from Silloth to non-trust destinations, cost £640 and £600 respectively.

The public sector union Unison described the trust’s taxi bill as “excessive”.

But a spokeswoman for the trust said: We have a process in place for using taxis and we only send medical records and drugs in sealed bags and containers. The taxis we use operate under a formal contract.

“It happens in almost all other trusts.”

She added that previous investigations had shown it was more cost effective to use taxis rather than operate a similar service in-house. The practice is regularly reviewed, she said.

A recent centralisation of medical records is expected to reduce the need to use taxis, a statement added.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “There isn’t anything wrong with using taxis to fill in the gaps every now and then, but the authorities must make sure they opt for the most efficient option, providing value for taxpayers’ money.

“When families are struggling with ever-rising bills, authorities must do all they can to keep costs down.”


Uber driver found guilty of assaulting black cab driver at a taxi rank

AN Uber worker has been convicted of assaulting a black taxi driver in the latest outbreak of a hire-car war.

Uber app operator Mohammed Dalim, 40, smashed Jon Cox, 49, over the head after a prang at a taxi rank outside King’s Cross station, central London.

Last week Highbury Magistrates Court convicted Dalim of assault, which heard how a war is raging between traditional black taxi drivers and hi-tech Uber mini cabs.

The area where Dalim carried out the attack is one of the key battle spots between the warring cabbies.

Trouble flared when former bus driver Dalim, of East London, nearly swerved into black cabbie Mr Cox because he was setting up the Uber app for his next customer, the trial heard.

Mr Cox told the court “I pulled alongside him and asked him ‘Didn’t you see me, what do you think you are doing?’ I wasn’t happy.

“He wound down his window and just started a torrent of abuse.

“He started goading me, saying ‘You’re crying, Uber has f**ked you, you can’t pay your mortgage.’”

Dalim cancelled his next booking and then bumped into Mr Cox as he tried to pull away.

Mr Cox said : “We were so close he pulled forward and struck my cab which was stationary, I hadn’t moved.

“And then he went mad, he put his window down and went “What have you done, you have damaged my cab, I’m going to damage you, I’m going to beat you up.

“He then reversed his vehicle, jumps out and runs round the back of his car.

“I got out as well just to inspect if there was any damage.

“I went round the front and he was ranting and raving at me and I just said ‘Well give me your details we will let the insurance deal with it.’

“At that point he just attacks me, threw some punches at me.”

Mr Cox, who has been a Hackney Carriage driver for 22 years, went on : “As I turned around to get my phone he punched me from behind in the back of the head.

“He just punched me from behind, I fell over.

“I went forward on my knees and hit my head on the footwell of the taxi because the door was open.”

The Uber driver was arrested at the scene following the bust-up on March 23 this year and told cops Mr Cox punched him and then “dived like a footballer” when he pushed him away.

Dalim denied common assault and claimed in court he had been “framed” by black cab drivers intent on Uber’s downfall.
He said: “I get abused by black cabbies on a daily basis.

“If you ask me there’s a war going on between black cabs and Uber, it’s a known fact.

“I’m an Uber driver, that’s what got me into this mess.’

Dalim said the accusations from the black cab driver were a “complete lie.”

“He came in, he pulled to the right, he started abusing me and I couldn’t get out of the situation.

“To me it felt like when I watch football, a little dramatic.”

However, District Judge Nicholas Rimmer rejected Dalim’s evidence and gave him a 12-month community order and 150 hours of unpaid work.

Mr Rimmer also ordered Dalim to pay £620 prosecutions costs, £200 compensation to Mr Cox, and a £60 victim surcharge.

He said : “You felt everything was a conspiracy because, as you put it, there is a war going on between black cabs and Uber.

“I don’t accept your evidence as credible because you were inconsistent about a number of things.”

Judge Rimmer noted that Dalim ‘chopped and changed’ his account, adding: “The force you used went way beyond anything that could be described as lawful or reasonable.”

The attack happened yards away from an earlier incident between an Uber and black cab driver in June.

The black cab driver was caught on camera repeatedly punching the Uber man in the face in the film which went viral online across the world.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Cox said the taxi rank on Pancras Road has become a ‘mad house’ because Uber drivers are ‘flooding’ the drop-off points.

He said: ‘There’s a lot of trouble down there, there’s a lot of flash points at the place because of the situation of the drop-off bays.

“It’s a bit of a madhouse round there.”

He added: “The Uber drivers are flooding it, they are getting desperate because they are hanging round trying to get jobs round there when they are not supposed to.”

Black cabbies say the tensions are the result of TfL licensing 45,000 Uber drivers in the capital without adequate checks or training.

They are angry about being undercut by Uber while being restricted by a rigid fare structure imposed on them by Transport for London.

Marc Turner, from taxi magazine Call Sign, said: “There is a conflict between Uber and registered taxi drivers in every territory in the world.”

Sean Paul Day, from London Taxi Radio, said: “It’s a war, but I don’t see it as a straightforward war. It’s a state-assisted attempted takeover of a registered industry.”

Tom Elvidge, Uber’s general manager of its London operation, said : “There’s no excuse for aggressive behaviour on the roads.

“We’ve had many reports of licensed drivers who use our app being on the receiving end of threatening behaviour from black cab drivers and we take it very seriously.

“There’s room for both black taxis and private hire operators like Uber in London.”


Nov 21

Hit and run could spell end of Bognor Regis tuc tuc

Adie Smith supported by Bognor Mayor Jim Brooks

Tuc tuc taxi owner Adie Smith faces being put out of business in Bognor Regis by a hit and run driver.
Adie has spent a month without working after the accident badly damaged his distinctive three-wheeler.

It will cost some £2,000 to repair the crumpled rear and damaged side of the vehicle. But he is struggling to find the cost which is outside his insurance cover.

Adie, 50, said: “That driver could put me out of work. I’ve had no income for a month so I can’t get the repairs started on the tuc tuc.

“I’ve also got the latest six monthly MOT due so I don’t know what I am going to do.”

Sudley Road resident Adie launched his unique business last summer after he had been jobless for two-and-a-half years from his previous driving job.

His distinctive vehicle has since become a familiar sight travelling around the Bognor area.

“I was just breaking even and starting to show a small profit,” he said.

“I could have upwards of 12 passengers a day during the week.

“I had started to build up a good regular trade and would also take visitors to Butlin’s on a tour of the town, which they absolutely loved.”

But the trade ended about midday on October 17 on the A29 Shripney Road.

Adie was going to pick up a passenger from the Caravan Club site on Rowan Way.

He became involved in a collision outside Bognor Motors where roadworks have restricted the traffic flow to a single lane of the dual carriageway for several weeks.

He claims a driver went into the back of his tuc tuc.

He went to speak to him but he pulled out and drove off and scraped the side of the tuc tuc as he passed it.

Adie phoned the police and, with the help of another motorist, managed to find the car but the driver escaped the immediate attentions of the police.

They tracked him down last week. Cllr Jim Brooks, Bognor’s town mayor, supported Adie at the launch of his business.

He said: “It’s such a shame what has happened to him. He put the business together himself and showed a real initiative to bring something to Bognor which is novel and an attraction.

“I hope he can find a solution to his problems.”


Nov 20

No limit on number of cabs in Chichester

A POSSIBLE cap on the number of cabs operating in the Chichester district has been rejected by councillors.

The district’s licensing and enforcement committee unanimously rejected a proposal that a survey should be carried out with licensed hackney carriage operators on the idea of restricting numbers.

Members were told the district council had never limited the number of licences, and there were currently 57.

Some existing licence holders had asked for numbers to be restricted to the present level. The committee heard estimates of the cost of a survey ranging from £5,000 to £12,000.

Cllr Brian Weekes said a cap was unnecessary. “Surely we know whether we have too many on the rank – it is an unnecessary expense to have a survey,” he added. “We should rely on this committee to decide whether there are too many drivers on the ranks.”

Cllr Graeme Barrett said with the potential reduction in bus services, there might be a need for more taxis and Cllr Peter Budge said natural selection made the number of cabs on the road right. “It is going too far to cap someone else’s livelihood,” he added.

Cllr Henry Potter said the number of cabs was self-regulatory to some extent.

“If there is a living to be made out there, people will want to have a taxi,” he said.

Senior technical officer Ian Smith said the number of licences had been slowly increasing in recent years, to the present level of 57.

“The slice of the cake has been getting smaller and smaller for existing drivers, who are having to work longer hours to get the same income,” he said.


Nov 18

Motorists and taxi drivers clash on rank in Driffield

DISGRUNTLED cabbies are urging a tough crackdown on motorists who park illegally on taxi ranks in Driffield.

Private car owners are hampering the ability of taxi drivers to earn a living by taking up spaces on the three vehicle taxi rank outside the Tesco supermarket on George Street.

The East Riding of Yorkshire Council last week took over responsibility for parking enforcement from the police.

Now taxi drivers are hoping the authority will crack down on a problem which they claim has existed for several years at George Street and other ranks in the town.

Taxi drivers say motorists often become abusive when told they are parked illegally.

One cabby, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals, has compiled a selection of photographs which show private car owners parking on the rank at George Street.

“It is illegal to park on a taxi rank,” he said.

The problem appears to be worst on a Sunday when people appear to think it is okay to use taxi ranks as a car park or as a stop-off point while they use a cash point – which is not the case.

Nor is it permitted for disabled badge holders to leave vehicles on the ranks.

The taxi driver said that George Street provided a substantial amount of the income available to cabbies from ranks in the town.

Yet people often parked there even though there is a car park containing hundreds of spaces just metres away within the ground of the supermarket.

“When you challenge some people, you just get a lot of abuse,” he said. “But this is our living.”

ERYC became responsible for enforcing parking restrictions after Humberside Police took the decision to withdraw its traffic warden service.

Civil parking enforcement will be self-funded through the income generated from on-street parking and from enforcement action.

A spokesman for the East Riding of Yorkshire Council said taxi drivers who were concerned about illegal parking were advised to write with their concerns. Write to: East Riding of Yorkshire Council, Civil Parking Enforcement, PO Box 294, Beverley, HU17 6FB.

Nov 18

Shrewsbury taxi drivers back safety camera plan

Calls have been made for CCTV to be installed in all Shrewsbury taxis to improve driver safety and potentially save council bosses ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds’ on legal fees.

The Shrewsbury Drivers Action Group today said CCTV cameras should be installed in more than 600 Hackney Carriages across the Shrewsbury area to help settle disputes and increase the safety of drivers.

It comes as Oxford City Council agreed for controversial video monitoring to be fitted to all 650 of its black cab and private hire taxis at a cost of £260,000.

Richard Price, chairman of Shrewsbury Drivers Action Group, said the matter would be brought up at their next meeting and could then be raised with Shropshire Council.

He said: “I think it is an excellent idea. Some cabs have the big screens separating the driver from the customer but the majority of them are saloon cars and don’t have that. Ninety-nine point nine per cent of customers are really excellent but you’ve always got the odd one.

“I’ve only had three serious incidents in over 20 years but they have involved a broken bottle and a knife so it only takes one incident. You could say I’m lucky to be sitting here today so anything that would look to improve driver safety I would call for.”

Experts also said far too much money was wasted by councils on legal fees and court proceedings which the introduction of CCTV would drastically reduce.

Patrick Nolan, a licensing consultant living in Shrewsbury, said: “We have noticed a lot of allegations of sexual offences against drivers more recently and these sorts of things would be easily sorted by the introduction of CCTV.

“It is a brilliant way to solve disputes.

“It is also something which could save the local authority hundreds of thousands of pounds in the long-run on legal fees and prosecutions. Overnight it could reduce their fees.

“Shrewsbury should do as Oxford has done as long as an independent data controller is in place to handle information.”

The cameras would record every conversation that took place in a taxi cab and footage gathered would be kept for 28 days. It would only be accessed in the case of a police investigation.

Lynne Towers, Shropshire Council’s public health and safety manager, said there were currently no plans in their budget to install CCTV across all taxis in Shrewsbury.


Nov 17

Fear and loathing in Los Cabtrade

Some of you seem to be wondering why your insurance premiums have risen this year. You’ve had another year of accident free motoring, yet you look at your renewal and see an increase for no apparent reason of around 20%.

I don’t know if you’re stupid, perhaps you are, or perhaps you might have been living in the same cave as Bin Robbin (Osama’s scouse cousin), but there appears to have been a new phenomenon hit the taxi trade during the past few years, the claim management company.

If you have a non fault accident and use one of these companies, you are no doubt grateful when told you’re not going to be off the road because they’ve arranged you a hire cab. You don’t know the cost, but around £150 per day appears to be the norm.

Is it just me or does £150 per day seem to be a colossal amount to hire a cab for, certainly I don’t know any firm locally hiring cabs out for £1050 per week. Indeed, earning that kind of cash on virtually any day in the provincial cab trade is simply beyond the majority of us. I remind you if you were earning £150 per day, you’re talking £900 per week (6 days) or £45K per year (50 weeks).

If you are earning £45K per year, a couple of grand for cab insurance would appear to be a fair price.

Naturally, not all claim management companies are as bent as the bloke off the X factor, but I heard a tale where a driver was contacted after an accident and asked by his insurance company whether or not it was really necessary to hire a ‘S’ class Mercedes. Sadly, the driver actually hired a Fiat Doblo.

So if you’re all wondering why your insurance is going through the proverbial roof, you should perhaps look around you, maybe even in your mirror.

Anyway, that’s my wee rant over for this month, let’s talk Law Commission.

The Department of Transport (DfT) invited the law commission to investigate existing taxi and private hire law. The major majority of the cab trade don’t seem too concerned about this, except Casey, who seems to be working to the principle that inviting the law commission into your house is like letting the Jehovah’s Witnesses in, when you’re halfway through watching a decent porn film.

The law commission, when it has finished consulting all stakeholders will then set up a consultative group of stakeholders. I don’t know the purpose of this group, I can only presume it’s to keep you all happy that the trade are being consulted.

Mid 2012 will then see a consultation paper being issued, with a 3 month public consultation to follow. Bearing in mind the taxi trade have already been consulted, this presumably will be the exact same type of consultation your wife has with you when buying a new pair of shoes.

The aims of the new legislation are obviously public safety, presumably they believe the public are not safe at the moment, and given your accident claims, they may have a point. They are also looking at availability, presumably because you’re not available, that’s right, everyday you leave your house to sit on cab ranks with the distinct goal of being as unavailable as possible.

They also want any new law to have clarity. Again, this is presumably because they believe the law isn’t clear enough now. I guess that’s where the new ‘super-dooper’ training schemes will kick in. You’ll all get trained to understand the new laws.

Of course, in order to do the above they need to understand the current set up. So they appear to be asking those who have tried to destroy the current regime brick by brick. People who have actively lowered standards and circumvented local licensing requirements by licensing vehicles elsewhere. Indeed, some of the people they appear to be talking with could be described as quite mad.

They will consider cross border hiring, which when you consider some of the people they are consulting with are very ‘big’ on cross border hiring, it should be quite educational.

The size of licensing areas will also be considered, after-all, bigger is better, just ask my wife. Better still ask the public of Durham, where as feared the City is overwhelmed by taxis each weekend, with little or no service in the rest of the county.

They will also look into links between licenses. I can only presume this has something to do with making the life of a private hire operator easier. I mean, why should a private hire driver need to produce a CRB check for every license he needs to do his job? Of course, I could point out that this has absolutely nothing to do with bad taxi law, and more to do with poor dialogue between local authorities, still, what do I know?

In terms of standards they will be looking at striking a balance between national and local, CRB checks, driver qualifications and driver training. You see, I’ve been writing in this magazine about how good you all are and behind your backs other appear to be working under the illusion you’re actually all crap.

The question of enforcement will also be considered. They want to clarify the powers and duties of licensing departments. Address the cross border issue (which I thought they already addressed). They also want to use the existing infrastructure. Which seems rather strange, considering to all intents and purposes the existing infrastructure has been responsible for the majority of f*ck up’s.

They will consider accessibility and disabled access. Here’s little old me thinking this was the job of the Equality act.

Nov 17

Aberdeen taxi survey suggests service changes for city

The results of an independently-conducted Taxi Demand Survey calling for a cap on taxi licences in the city will be discussed by the Licensing Committee on Wednesday (November 23).

The committee ordered the survey be carried out by the Transport Research Group (TRI) at Napier University to comply with legislation relating to taxi Licence restrictions set out in the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (CGSA).

The TRI Taxi Studies Group sought the views of 448 people on the city’s streets as well as leading focus groups amongst key stakeholders. These included representatives for disabled, commercial and retail groups. A further review of hoteliers and service industries was competed via an online survey.
Other methods employed as part of the survey was the analysis of 768 hours of video observation at all official ranks and questionnaires completed by Licence holders.

The survey was carried out throughout October and focused on demand patterns over time, demand for taxi services and a review of the physical conditions in which services are supplied in the city.

The TRI Taxi Studies Group found the majority of taxi ranks in the city performed well and the taxi fleet was praised for being in good condition.

The survey also made a number of recommendations, including imposing a limit on the number of taxi licences, introducing new ranks in the city and putting in place a formal review every three years or more often.

A report accompanying the TRI survey recommends the committee note the findings and consult with partners in Transport Strategy and Programmes, Community Safety and Grampian Police to obtain their thoughts on the survey’s findings.

If councillors back the recommendation a report will come back before the committee outlining the desirability and consequence of imposing a limit on the number of taxi licences in Aberdeen as part of a package of measures to enhance supply in the city.

The report will be discussed by the committee at a meeting on Wednesday.

Link to agenda for meeting

Nov 17

Runcorn cabbie found guilty of causing grievous bodily harm to Widnes man

A TAXI driver has been found guilty of an attack which left a Widnes victim with severe brain damage.

Gary Whelan, 44, of Laburnum Grove, Runcorn, punched Mark Clare on April 8 this year.

He hit Mr Clare after he dropped him off in Widnes, causing him to fall and hit his head with a ‘sickening thud’.

The impact left him with a fractured skull and resulted in him suffering a severe brain injury.

At Chester Crown Court on Friday a jury of seven men and five women returned a unanimous guilty verdict on one count of inflicting grievous bodily harm against Mr Clare.

The judge had dismissed a more serious count of causing grievous bodily harm with intent when they were unable to reach a verdict.

Over the course of the four-day trial the court heard that on the night of the incident, 39-year-old Mr Clare had been out drinking and was sharing the cab home with four other people who he did not know, two men and two women.

But when one of the women was dropped off at her home in Hough Green, a drunken Mr Clare refused to contribute £1 taxi fare, got out, and started walking home in the wrong direction.

Myles Wilson, prosecuting, told the court: “He (Whelan) said ‘if he comes back I’m going to deck him’.

“He misread the situation.

“The passengers weren’t bothered but the defendant got involved.

“Realising he was going the wrong way, he (Mr Clare) turned around and walked back.

“The defendant got out of his seat, approached and grabbed him.

“He punched Mark Clare and he fell back causing a fracture to the back of his skull.”

Mr Clare’s injuries were so severe at the time it was thought he might die.

He was still undergoing treatment and cannot remember the incident.

Whelan was bailed and will be sentenced later this month.


Nov 17

Bury Cabbies threaten to stage a strike

BURY’S black cab drivers could stage a boycott and take their vehicles off the road in a dispute with the council.

The warning comes from a drivers’ leader who says relations between cabbies and Bury Council are at rock bottom.

Mr Charles Oakes, chairman of Bolton and Bury Hackney Drivers Association (BBHDA), confronted councillors at a meeting of Bury Executive last week. He told them: “The relationship between our members and the council, the council’s licensing committee members and council officers is at an all-time low.”

At the centre of the row is the MOT testing procedure.

The borough’s 160 registered black cabs each have to be serviced twice a year at an MOT centre in Bradley Fold.

BBHDA wants drivers to be able to take their cabs to private garages so they have more choice.

But the council needs the majority of black-cab licence holders to support that idea for it to be pushed through.

Of the 160 licence holders, 80 are BBHDA members. About 45 of the others, claims Mr Oakes, do not drive black cabs.

Mr Oakes explained: “When they become taxi drivers, they aren’t sure if they will be Hackney carriage drivers or private-hire drivers so they get licences for both.

“Once they start in private-hire vehicles, they don’t take part in black-cab-related consultations. That needs looking at.”

A similar issue over MOT testing arose in Bolton in 2007 and, after lobbying from BBHDA, Bolton Council allowed three private garages to do tests.

Mr Oakes said: “We want the same change in Bury and we’ve hit a brick wall.

“We are asking the council if it is prepared to use the Good Relations Programme mediators to resolve these issues.

“If there is no progress in the next few months, there will be no alternative but for us to withdraw our services from the roads.”

Bury’s licensing committee chairman, Cllr Matt Bailey, said: “This is a hot topic at the moment.

“Mr Oakes is quite right to raise his concerns and there are ways it can get resolved.

“It’s clearly an issue and something that needs sorting out.

“I would like to resolve the issue.

“The idea of having more than one MOT station in principle is not a bad one. Officers are looking into the possibilities of it.”

Nov 17

Bath Traders voice fears after taxi rank decision

Traders in Orange Grove have warned they will go bankrupt after councillors voted to move tourist coaches away from their shops.

The businesses along the stretch of road outside the abbey have responded angrily to plans by Bath and North East Somerset Council to reorganise the area as part of a road shake-up.

Officers put together three options for the short-term future of the site: the first to expand the taxi rank in Orange Grove and move two coach bays round the corner to Terrace Walk; the second to keep the coaches in Orange Grove but move the taxi rank to Terrace Walk during the day; and the third for the coaches and taxis to share the Orange Grove space during the day.

Most parties expected councillors to opt for the third suggestion, seen as a compromise for all involved, but instead the Liberal Democrat cabinet chose the first one.

Annette Dolan, who runs Bath Aqua Glass, shouted “we will be bankrupt” as she left the council meeting last week, and said the sudden removal of coaches from the area would leave the businesses in the lurch.

She said: “What we are upset about is that there is no transitional period. We understand that the coaches have to go and one councillor said we don’t have the god-given right to have customers dropped at our door.

“But that has been the case for many years and we bought the place because of the positioning with the coaches and so did other businesses. This will have a big impact on Orange Grove and we will have to have a massive advertising budget to get people there.”

Despite tension between traders and taxi drivers over the past few months, Mrs Dolan said they were now working together and the drivers had approached her after the meeting to say they were sorry for her.

The businesses are now hoping to convince opposition councillors to call-in the decision, meaning the cabinet would have to look at the matter again.

In a letter to councillors Janet McPherson, who used to run a shop on Pulteney Bridge and has been supporting the traders, said: “This is not a sensible solution to a problem but yet another example of the piecemeal approach of the councillors to the road-users of the city and also of their unbelievable arrogance in overriding the advice of officers tasked to do the job.”

Speaking at the cabinet meeting Councillor Bryan Webber (Con, Abbey) said the main issue was to come up with a long-term solution for the number of tourist coaches in the city.

He said: “This can only be a temporary measure. We need to address the problem of coaches in Bath. They are increasing in number and size. We urgently need a better coach park.”

Bob Hollingdale, from the Bath Taxi Association, agreed, adding: “If the coaches were allowed to increase their numbers on Orange Grove I guarantee you from day one an increase in congestion.

“A lot of people won’t come to Bath because of the traffic and this will only make matters worse.”

Councillor Roger Symonds (Lib Dem, Combe Down), the cabinet member for transport, defended the decision to go for option one, saying it was the best solution for traffic management.

Nov 17

Newbury Taxi drivers threaten more action

Cab drivers demanding return of Market Place rank say they plan more protests

TAXI drivers in Newbury have warned they will continue causing disruption in Newbury until the axed Market Place taxi rank is restored, with rumours that the Hennessy Gold Cup could become a target.

A demonstration by angry cab drivers brought Newbury town centre to a standstill from 5pm on Friday (12) as a procession of 40 cars circled the streets until police intervened.

The move of the Market Place taxi rank to the Wharf, taking them out of sight from the town centre and causing tensions between drivers, was the basis for the protest, which they claim could lead to a repeat of the violent scenes witnessed just hours later outside the Hogshead pub in Wharf Street in which three Thatcham men were stabbed and arrests were made.

One driver who asked not to be named said that some were so incensed at West Berkshire Council’s decision that a plan had been formulated to disrupt the Hennessy Gold Cup at Newbury Racecourse next weekend – the town’s busiest day of the year – to send a direct message to the council.

West Berkshire Hackney and Private Hire Association chairman Andrew Lutter distanced himself from any attempt to derail one of the largest and most prestigious events in the racing calendar, but said other demonstrations were on the cards.

“The council are determined not listen to us but we will keep doing this until they do,” he said.

““We did something like this 10 years ago, and we are fully prepared to do it again.

“Some of the lads want to go out and protest every night but we want to make a point and make it as effective as possible. I personally don’t want to disturb the racing as I don’t think it should affect the punters but some drivers are fuming and all sorts of things are being talked about.”

In February 2001, 50 taxis brought major roads around Newbury to a standstill with a drive-slow protest at a council ruling on fares.

The combination of crawling cabs and thousands of racegoers descending on Newbury for the Toe Gold Trophy caused chaos right across the town.

Inspector Warren McKeown from Thames Valley Police said: “We are aware that further similar events are planned and as always we will do all we can to facilitate a peaceful protest.”

West Berkshire Council’s executive member for transport David Betts (Con, Purley-on-Thames) said he did not wish to comment on any specific incident which was being investigated, but said that if the police indicated they had concerns over the new arrangements the council “would certainly look into it if asked.”

Thames Valley Police refused to comment when asked whether it was happy with the arrangements.

“If there is a political debate between the taxi drivers and the council we will not get involved, we do not get into political debates,” spokesman Craig Evry said.

Police arrested a man on suspicion of causing grievous bodily harm in relation to the incident on Saturday night, in which three men, all from Thatcham, received minor lacerations and puncture wounds following the disorder.

The most seriously injured, a 24-year-old man, was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading and was released the following morning.

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