Law change makes it illegal for taxi drivers to discriminate against wheelchair users.
Taxi drivers face a fine of up to £1,000 if they refuse to transport wheelchair users or attempt to charge them extra, in a change to the law which comes into force today (6 April 2017).
From today taxi and private hire vehicle drivers will be obliged by law to:
transport wheelchair users in their wheelchair
provide passengers in wheelchairs with appropriate assistance
charge wheelchair users the same as non-wheelchair users
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said:
We are building a country that works for everyone, and part of that is ensuring disabled people have the same access to services and opportunities as anyone else – including when it comes to travel. People who use wheelchairs are often heavily reliant on taxis and private hire vehicles and this change to the law will mean fair and equal treatment for all.
The changes apply to England, Wales and Scotland affecting vehicles that are designated as wheelchair accessible and apply to both taxis and private hire vehicles. All taxis in London and a significant number in most major urban centres are wheelchair accessible.
Drivers found to be discriminating against wheelchair users face fines of up to £1,000 as part of provisions being enacted from the Equality Act. Drivers may also face having their taxi or Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) licence suspended or revoked by their licencing authority. Drivers unable to provide assistance for medical reasons will be able to apply to their licensing authority for an exemption from the new requirements.
Robert Meadowcroft, Chief Executive of Muscular Dystrophy UK, said:
Today’s change in legislation is positive news, as we know that disabled people often have to rely on taxis where accessible public transport isn’t an option.
Taxi drivers can provide a vital service in getting wheelchair users from A to B so they are able to maintain their livelihoods and play an active part in society. Today creates a level playing field for both drivers and passengers.
The law now makes clear the rights for wheelchair users and the responsibilities of taxi drivers, including the penalties that will occur if they aren’t observed. Wheelchair users are frequent customers of taxi services, so instead of being apprehensive of these new rules, taxi companies should promote their accessibility credentials.
The new requirements complement those already in place to prevent discrimination against users of assistance dogs and underline the government’s wide-ranging commitment to supporting transport networks which work for everyone.
The government will be consulting on a draft Accessibility Action Plan later this year, which will seek to address the barriers faced by disabled people in accessing all modes of public transport.
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.
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.
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.
A CONVICTED pervert shacked up with a teenager he met while running her to SCHOOL in his taxi.
John Gemmell, 43, split with wife Angela and moved Gemma Lawson into their marital home just weeks after her 16th birthday.
He had been on a contract to run her from her home in Dundonald, Ayrshire, to a support centre for kids out of mainstream education for three days a week since she was aged just 14.
Gemmell was sacked by taxi bosses when they found out Gemma had moved into his terraced house.
The shocking revelations emerged as he appeared at Ayr Sheriff Court last week after being found guilty of making sexual comments to two girls aged as young as eight.
A source said: “Everyone who knows him is sickened.
“Gemma moved in just after she turned 16.
“John insists that she was 16 before they got together but that is beside the point, he obviously got to know her through the taxi driving — it’s not right. John and Angela have a six-year-old together and this has ripped the family apart.”
A former colleague — who didn’t want to be named — said: “Angela was going on about them having a relationship but nobody could believe he would be that stupid.
“Gemmell denied it but didn’t do enough to satisfy the boss and was sacked.
“Obviously the boss was worried about losing the contract for the schools — we are working with kids and it is an absolute no-no.
“About three weeks later Gemma was found in his house.”
The former workmate added: “This was only a few weeks after he stopped running her to school. It seems there was a lot of talk going between them on the internet — it’s totally inappropriate.”
Gemmell, accompanied by Gemma, was at court last week for sentencing but it was deferred until next year for reports.
After the hearing he declined to comment.
But Gemma said: “At the end of the day we are adults, it doesn’t matter how we met.
“I was 16 — that makes me an adult.”
Gemmell has been placed on the sex offenders register.
TAXIS older than 10 years have been refused a licence.
Calderdale Council this week rejected applications from three private hire vehicles.
The council told the taxi drivers they need to ensure that their vehicles are maintained “to the highest standard” if they want to continue running them beyond 10 years old.
Members of Calderdale Council’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee said none of the vehicles were deemed to be in a suitable condition and all of the applications to renew licences were refused.
Clr Pat Allen, chairman of Calderdale’s Licensing and Regulatory Committee, said: “The whole committee wants to make it clear that the safety of the public is absolutely paramount and we expect very high standards.
“These are difficult times for all businesses and the council recognised this when it changed its policy so that private hire vehicle proprietors did not need to change their vehicles once the cars reached 10 years old.
“But our main priority is the safety and the comfort of the public and we will only allow proprietors to extend their licences beyond the vehicle’s 10th anniversary if they are in the very best condition.”
In 2008 the Licensing and Regulatory Committee changed its policy so that a vehicle could continue to be licensed beyond the maximum age of 10 years, provided the vehicle was able to pass the Council’s mechanical test.
RAY MALLON brought his office into disrepute in the way he dealt with issues relating to Middlesbrough’s taxis, a watchdog has ruled.
The Standards Board for England found three breaches of its code of conduct after investigating complaints over how the mayor handled a row over the borough’s trade.
But the board has ruled no sanctions should be applied.
And it cleared Mr Mallon over secretly-recorded conversations with Boro Cars boss Mohammed Bashir, in which the mayor made an insulting reference regarding the sex life of a female council official.
That is because the Standards Board concluded he was acting as a private individual at the time.
The Standards Board upheld complaints that Mr Mallon:
Brought his office or authority into disrepute, and
Failed to declare a personal interest when required to do so on two separate occasions.
But the watchdog dismissed allegations that he:
Failed to treat others with respect;
Compromised the impartiality of council officers, and
Used his position improperly to confer an advantage.
A report found the relationship between Mr Mallon and Mr Bashir had been that of “close associate”.
It was at Mr Bashir’s request that the mayor became personally involved in matters relating to the borough’s taxi trade – particularly in trying to resolve a row between Boro Cars and the local hackney carriage trade over access to Morrisons at Berwick Hills.
The report states Mr Mallon’s involvement gave Mr Bashir access to senior officers he might not otherwise have had without that “close association”.
But it adds there was no evidence to suggest Mr Mallon tried to influence officers into making a particular decision or favour one side over another during the period.
The Standards Board found the mayor breached the Code when he failed to declare an interest in the taxi trade during two Executive meetings.
But the report states he was “consistently open” in referencing his association with Mr Bashir in the first – and that the “sheer chaos” surrounding the second made it understandable he did not do so.
“The ethical standards officer took into account that Mr Mallon accepted he should have declared an interest on both occasions,” the board added.
The standards officer also looked at complaints surrounding the secretly-taped telephone conversations. It cleared Mr Mallon of breaching the code by:
Making disrespectful comments about a female council officer;
Lying about having apologised to that council officer, and
Making unsubstantiated comments relating to illegal charging by Asian taxi drivers and referred to taxi drivers as “thick”.
“The ethical standards officer found Mr Mallon had apologised to the council officer for the comments that were subsequently published in the press,” the report adds.
“As such, he did not lie about the matter.”
The Standards Board found the comments were part of a private conversation and that Mr Mallon was not acting in his official capacity as mayor at the time.
The investigating officer took into account his right to a private life and found that, in the conversations, he had not been conducting the business of the authority.
The views expressed were Mr Mallon’s private opinions, she ruled.
But she also found that the mayor had brought his office into disrepute over actively seeking to assist Mr Bashir in a court case against the council as he came under “pressure” to try to get the dispute resolved.
“While she considered Mr Mallon lacked judgment in this regard, she does not doubt that his intentions were to get the taxi dispute resolved in a fair and equitable manner,” adds the report. “The ethical standards officer has decided no further action needs to be taken.”
Mr Mallon today told the Gazette that his interventions were “well-intentioned” and that he found it “ironic” he was found to have been in breach of the Code for “attempting to assist one of the complainants”.
“The fact that they (the Standards Board) feel there is no need for further action confirms that these were technical breaches,” added the mayor.
“Had they not been, there is little doubt I would have faced a full hearing.
“I hope this judgment now draws a line under this chapter and we can move forward for the good of the town and its taxpayers.”
Nobody from Boro Cars was available for comment today.
Over 130 taxis were stopped checked during a joint police and local authority operation in Cardiff and Swansea city centres.
Officers from the South Wales Police Commercial Vehicle Unit, in conjunction with local authority Taxi Licensing Officers, have been conducting safety checks on taxis during the last fortnight to ensure vehicles are fit to escort passengers over the busy festive season.
Chief Superintendent Cliff Filer, the Force Head of Specialist Operations, said: “It is a cause for concern that 16 out of the 28 taxis stop-checked in Swansea city centre were issued with immediate prohibitions for having defective vehicles.
“These prohibitions ranged from defective lights, to defective tyres where cord and ply were exposed, and tread well below the legal limit.
“Last year’s winter weather caused hazardous driving conditions, and with the heavy rainfall this year, it is imperative that we, together with our partners within Local Authority licensing team, do what we can to ensure the roadworthiness of our communities’ cabs.”
The checks in the Welsh cities included lights, tyres, first aid kits and fire extinguishers, and the drivers authenticated by checking their licence badges.
In Cardiff, 23 drivers were issued with deferred suspensions, requiring them to make prompt repairs to defects on their vehicles.
22 verbal warnings were also issued, including warnings for drivers who failed to appropriately display their identification.
Chief Superintendent Filer added: “We regularly run taxi safety operations and it is unacceptable that some drivers are still failing to adequately maintain their vehicles.
“These are professional drivers, and ensuring the safety and roadworthiness of their vehicles must be paramount. Defective vehicles put themselves, their passengers and other road users in danger.
“We had a really warm response from the public during the operation, and work will continue throughout the force area with our partners including the taxi drivers associations in the New Year.”
A CONVICTED cocaine dealer has launched a bid to keep his taxi licence.
David Crawford, 45, has taken his appeal against Barrow Borough Council’s decision to strip him of his licence to the crown court.
The council ruled he was unfit to drive a taxi as he has not been free of serious criminal conviction for a period of three to five years. The period is at the council’s discretion.
Mr Crawford was jailed in June 2008 after being found with two half-gram wraps of cocaine and £685 of cash at the King Alfred Pub on Walney in July of the previous year.
He was found guilty of possession with intent to supply cocaine, and released from prison in July 2009.
Mr Crawford was granted a taxi licence in September this year and began driving for A1 Taxis in Barrow. However Barrow Borough Council chose to revoke his licence at a meeting of the licensing committee on November 3 after officers raised concerns about his past. Mr Crawford appealed and his case was heard by Furness Magistrates’ Court on December 6. The district judge upheld the council’s decision, but Mr Crawford has now taken his case to the crown court, and can continue driving until the process is completed.
A taxi driver contacted the Evening Mail anonymously to express concern at Mr Crawford being able to continue driving.
The driver said: “Maybe Mr Crawford is a reformed character. If so, then he should understand that the rule is there for him to show and prove to society that this is the case.”
But Mr Crawford told the Evening Mail that he believed he was eligible to reapply for a licence from June this year, and this is why he is fighting his case.
He said: “I’ve got it in black and white that my three years expired in June and that’s why I reapplied.”
Chief environmental health officer at Barrow Borough, Council Gary Ormondroyd, confirmed that although the council revoked Mr Crawford’s licence, he would continue to be able to serve as a driver until his appeal had been heard by the crown court. He said: “The bottom line is he had his licence revoked by us at the committee meeting in November.
“He was instructed he has a right to appeal to the crown court (following the district judges’ ruling) and he has exercised this right.”
Mr Crawford left A1 this week after an unrelated disagreement.
Paul Brereton, owner of A1 taxis, confirmed Mr Crawford had left the company.
He said:“We took the decision this week, but not on the grounds of licensing.”
Mr Crawford said: “I’m now left in a position where I have no job during the Christmas period.
“I am trying to get a taxi sorted but I don’t think it’s going to happen.
“I have done my time for the stupid things I have done in the past. But I have got everything against me.”
A spokesman for Preston Crown Court said a date had not yet been set for the appeal hearing.
Police have vowed to take tough action against private hire and taxi drivers whose vehicles are unsafe after several were suspended from duty for having tyres with insufficient tread.
Nine drivers were immediately suspended – almost 30 per cent – after police and Bradford Council licensing officers checked 33 private hire and hackney carriage vehicles in the Tong and Wyke area.
The checks were carried out last weekend ahead of the busiest time of the year for the trade. The suspensions were mainly for having tyres with insufficient tread. Others were suspended for not carrying the correct paperwork in their vehicles.
Six advisory notices were issued, requiring defects to be rectified within a certain amount of time.
Four endorsable fixed penalty notices, with three penalty points and a £60 fine, were issued for having tyres with insufficient tread.
Sergeant Brian Watson, of the Tong and Wyke Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “It is important that we ensure all vehicles in Bradford are fully roadworthy and legally fit to be travelling.
“This is a particularly poignant message at a time of year when conditions can often be difficult to negotiate.
“In this latest joint operation with Bradford Council Hackney Licensing Officers, we focused on private hire and hackney carriage vehicles.
“Officers noticed that many of the cars stopped had insufficient tyre tread and a number of drivers were immediately suspended from duty.
In Bradford all Hackney Carriages are white vehicles with a green stripe on the front doors. Fares do not need to be pre-booked.
Private hire minicabs can be any suitable vehicles, but must display registration badges. They can only carry passengers who have booked fares in advance through the firm’s office.
A TAXI driver dubbed “an amber gambler” killed a Plymouth pensioner on a pedestrian crossing, a jury has ruled.
Now Andrew Bates is facing almost certain jail after being found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving.
Gordon Hollister, pictured left, aged 76 and known to his family and friends as Peter, died on December 13 last year when he was hit by Bates’ private-hire cab near the Woolwell roundabout on a pedestrian-controlled crossing he used often.
In her closing speech, prosecutor Jo Martin told the jury of six men and six woman: “He (Bates) was an amber gambler; he was taking a chance.
“The light changed to red and he kept on going.
“It was a deliberate decision by him to overtake and go through the lights, and tragedy was the result.”
Bates, aged 44 and of Warwick Orchard Close, Honicknowle, had denied the charge and a lesser alternative of causing death by careless driving. He showed no reaction as the verdict was returned, but there were gasps from the back of the court where his supporters and relatives of Mr Hollister were sitting in the public gallery.
Judge Francis Gilbert QC told Bates he would sentence him on January 20 following a report from the Probation Service.
He granted him unconditional bail but imposed an interim driving ban and warned: “It is all but inevitable that you will receive an immediate custodial sentence.”
He also asked Miss Martin to tell the jury about Bates’ previous driving convictions.
These included contravening a pedestrian crossing while stationary in 2008, speeding at 40mph in a 30mph limit and 74mph in a 50mph limit and having his taxi licence withdrawn for vehicle defects.
During the trial, the jury heard that Bates drove through a red light in his eight-seater Ford Tourneo after accelerating to overtake a cement mixer as he saw Mr Hollister poised to cross the road.
The pensioner, from Southway, was crossing a two-lane stretch of Tavistock Road following a visit to the nearby Tesco superstore at around 10.45am when the accident happened.
Despite attempts by paramedics and witnesses, he died at Derriford Hospital later that morning.
The jury heard from several eye-witnesses and was also shown graphic photographs of the crash scene.
Bates, the only defence witness, told the court he was “almost sure” the traffic lights were green.
He said he was not in a hurry and claimed Mr Hollister failed to look before stepping out in front of him.
Bates told the jury he was devastated and would do anything to be able to turn the clock back.
Outside the court, Mr Hollister’s younger brother Des told The Herald he agreed with the verdict and thought Bates should be jailed.
“I am not vindictive, but people make mistakes and unfortunately they have to pay,” he said.
“He made a mistake and it cost me a brother.”
Mr Hollister said it had been a long wait for justice, but praised the work of two police officers: family liaison officer MPc Steve Chaplin and officer in the case MPc Abigail Bedson.
MPc Bedson said: “We are satisfied that the jury has reached the correct verdict.
“A year of hard work has gone into this case.
“The people of Plymouth should be able to use the roads and crossings without fear.”
A taxi driver was attacked and robbed by two customers.
The two men put the driver in a headlock before taking his float and a set of keys in Davey Drive, Hollingdean, at about 7.30pm on Tuesday.
The Brighton and Hove Streamline taxi driver had just dropped a fare off in Sandhurst Avenue when the two men hailed him down near the junction with Warren Road.
As he turned into Southmount Road he was attacked before the pair ran off.
Detective Sergeant Chris Sherwell from Brighton and Hove CID said: “This was a very worrying encounter for the taxi driver who was going about his normal business. We are keen to trace the suspects and would urge people to please come forward who may know the identity of the suspects.”
The suspects are described as white, between 5ft9 and 6ft, in their 20s with dark short hair.
One was described as thin with a slim face whilst the other was stocky with a fuller face and was wearing a white long sleeved top.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Sussex Police on 101 quoting serial 1377 of 20/12 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.