Met PC sacked for ‘dishonesty’ in dodging minicab fare after night out

A Met Police constable who got into a drunken row with a minicab driver over a £24 fare has been sacked.

Nicola Elston, 30, was told her conviction for making off without paying the fare amounted to gross misconduct when she appeared before a disciplinary hearing.

The panel heard that Elston, who has served with the force for seven years, was branded “relentlessly dishonest” by a judge following a three-day trial at Southwark crown court.

Michael Kirk, for the Met, said that on June 27 last year the Lambeth-based officer took a cab home to Croydon after a night drinking with colleagues but refused to pay the fare on arrival.

The panel was told she had a row with the driver, who claimed she punched him in the stomach. Elston was arrested hours later but told officers at her first interview that she was unable to recall the events of the night before.

She was charged last September and during her trial in March claimed she left the fare in the cab before getting out. Elston was cleared of the assault charge but fined for the fare evasion.

She was called to the disciplinary hearing to answer allegations her behaviour breached the Met’s standards for professional behaviour concerning honesty and integrity.

James Southgate, of the Met Police Federation, told the panel that the conviction had “devastated” Elston.

He added: “She must accept the court ruling but she disagrees with the outcome. She said she left the fare in the cab but the jury didn’t accept this. It did accept she did not assault the driver.

“She made a mistake. She accepts it, learned from it and the court has punished her for it. Please don’t take away this previously unblemished career.”

Elston wore her Pc’s uniform for the hour-long hearing but did not speak.

Assistant Commissioner Helen King concluded that she breached standards of honesty, saying her conviction and comments by the judge meant she could no longer work for the Met.

She added: “I must also consider the aggravating factors and what Londoners rightly expect from the force.”

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

Should taxi driver vetting be toughened up in the wake of Rotherham sex abuse scandal?

Vera Baird

North East police chiefs and council leaders are calling on the Government to do more to protect taxi passengers

Crime chiefs and politicians have called on the Government to ensure that more protection is offered to taxi passengers from potential sex attackers.

It follows the Rotherham child abuse scandal and that in South Ribble, Lancashire, in which victims were ferried round by cabbies, some of who hadn’t been properly vetted.

A letter – signed by Vera Baird QC, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, Steve Ashman, Chief Constable for Northumbria Police, and the six council leaders who cover Tyne and Wear and Northumberland – has been sent to Transport Minister Chris Grayling.

In it they urged him to make the system of issuing taxi licences more open and transparent.

Currently, they say, it is possible for a private hire or hackney carriage driver to be refused a licence by one local authority only to be granted a licence by another.

Also, local authorities can issue a licence if they are satisfied an applicant is a “fit and proper” person.

However, there is no definition or criteria to what a “fit and proper” person should be.

Ms Baird said: “Rotherham has shown the importance of getting this issue right.

“We have to do all that we can to safeguard and protect vulnerable young people and adults. We are sending a clear message to government, they need to get the rules around issuing taxi licences sorted.

“There is only one chance to get it right and in the interests of safeguarding, no-one with a sexual or indecency offence should be driving a taxi. The Government needs to get this sorted, quickly and the North East stands ready to lead the way in delivering change in this area – but we can’t do it without the Government.”

The letter also urges Mr Grayling to review and update the guidelines as to what sort of criminal offences will be of particular concern when considering fitness and lengths of time whereby an applicant should be free of conviction.

All those who signed the letter said that regulations should make sure anyone with a sexual or indecency offence should be refused a licence, which is not the case at present.

Iain Malcolm, leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “As a group we will always come together to do whatever it takes to keep local residents safe. “It is ludicrous that taxis licence rules set by Government are open to different interpretation by different local authorities.

“This needs tightened up, the same rules should be applied in every area – then we will all have confidence in the rules being used to grant licences.”

The letter to Mr Grayling includes a recommendation that there should be a national database, similar to the Disclosure and Barring Service, of all applicants who have applied for a licence, using a national framework and the reasons for any refusal should be included on the database.

This would allow quick and easy access to local authority staff to see if previous applications have been made and the reasons for refusal.

A Government spokesperson said: “The Government is already leading work with the taxi and private hire vehicle sector to reduce the risks posed to children, young people and vulnerable adults from sexual exploitation by that very small number of drivers who seek to abuse their position of trust.

“Proposals under the Policing and Crime Bill will give Government the power to issue statutory guidance to local authorities so that their taxi and PHV licensing ensures the safeguarding of vulnerable passengers. This will be subject to public consultation.”

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

Commons Questions

Taxis: Disability

Department for Transport written question – answered on 15th September 2016.

Rob Marris Shadow Minister (Treasury)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, what steps he is taking to increase the number of accessible taxis.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

Government is committed to giving disabled people the same access to transport services as other members of society. It also recognises the particularly significant role played by taxis and private hire vehicle (PHV) operators for many disabled people, in helping them to remain active and independent.

It is for local authorities to specify a number of accessible vehicles to be within their licensed taxi and private hire vehicle fleet, and to take account of their public sector equality duties when doing so.

‘Where to Guv, Raqqa?’ UK taxi drivers get Prevent training

Middle East Eye reports that taxi drivers in the UK are being trained to become the “eyes and ears” of local authorities and police in the hunt for potential terrorists as part of safeguarding schemes being rolled out across the country.

Drivers in several British towns and cities are receiving Prevent counter-terrorism training as part of mandatory “knowledge” tests introduced by local councils.

One flagship scheme, run by Calderdale Council in West Yorkshire, northern England, was considered so successful that councillors discussed extending it to staff working in takeaway food outlets and bars.

Manchester City Council also incorporated Prevent awareness into a safeguarding handbook issued to taxi drivers last year, while Dartford Borough Council in Kent is among the latest to introduce Prevent training as part of its safeguarding requirements for taxi drivers.

But taxi industry organisations and trade unions have raised concerns about the training which they say is being introduced in a piecemeal and inconsistent way across the country and risks creating an “air of suspicion” within communities.

Critics of Prevent also questioned the legality of the training and accused the Government of seeking to turn the UK into a “counter-terrorism state” in which citizens were expected to spy on each other.

“This is just one more proof, in a long line of evidence, that Prevent is a legalised, UK-wide spying exercise,” Abed Choudary, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, told Middle East Eye.

Opponents of the Prevent scheme say it is based on flawed theories about the radicalisation process. Its advocates argue that it is primarily concerned with safeguarding those who are vulnerable to being drawn into extremism. At least 550,000 public-sector workers, including teachers and doctors have received training in spotting signs of radicalisation, according to the Home Office.

Calderdale’s taxi driver training scheme was highlighted in a document produced by the Local Government Association in December 2015 entitled “Councils’ role in preventing extremism”.

The document was produced in response to the introduction of the Prevent Duty last year which required public bodies including local councils and individual public-sector employees to demonstrate “due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism”.

It describes how Calderdale had provided Prevent and other safeguarding training covering issues such as child sex exploitation and domestic abuse to 1,000 licensed taxi drivers in four-hour sessions over the space of three months.

“Taxi drivers have a unique reach into society. Ferrying passengers around, they get to see and hear things that the statutory agencies never could,” it says.

The training has also been made mandatory for new drivers applying for a taxi licence while existing licence-holders are required to complete the course every three years.

“Taxi drivers can play a really important role. They can be our eyes and ears. It is about helping them to understand when they may need to act,” said Jo Richmond, the council’s neighbourhoods and cohesion manager.

Richmond is due to talk about the scheme at a conference on “Tackling Radicalisation and Promoting Community Integration” aimed at public sector workers in November.

According to the LGA document, feedback from taxi drivers on the sessions was “extremely positive”. “It made me realise it’s not all about driving,” one driver was quoted as saying.

But when MEE approached taxi drivers in Halifax for comment, none were willing to speak about the scheme.

“They are just worried. They do it because it is going to earn them a living,” a local source told MEE after speaking to drivers in the town.

At a council meeting in October 2015, councillor Steve Sweeney said that several other councils were looking to follow a similar approach.

At a previous meeting of the council’s communities scrutiny panel, councillors had asked police whether the taxi driver training could be extended to “other people providing services such as takeaways and bars,” according to council minutes.

Calderdale, which covers the town of Halifax and surrounding areas, was made a Prevent priority area – one of 30 in the country – by the Home Office in 2015, meaning it receives funds both for a local Prevent coordinator and for projects run in conjunction with local communities and partners. Just over seven percent of the area’s 200,000 population identified themselves as Muslims at the last census in 2011.

Takeaways and bars

At the communities scrutiny panel meeting in September 2015, police officers told councillors that they spent more time working on far right threats than any other.

A report on the implementation of Prevent to the same panel in March 2015 highlighted the presence of an English Defence League (EDL) branch in the town and said that anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic hate incidents had been reported in the past 12 months.

But it also noted, as pertinent in the local context, that: “There continues to be empathy for the plight of individuals in Syria and Palestine and local charity collections/events continue to take place.”

Calderdale’s safeguarding training was implemented by West Yorkshire Police and an external trainer, Nadeem Mir, a former police chief inspector in Greater Manchester where he implemented a similar scheme.

In August 2015, Manchester City Council  issued a safeguarding handbook to 6,000 taxi drivers which contained a section on terrorism and extremism.

“The handbook has been developed to raise awareness about reporting crime and is an opportunity to encourage drivers who are the eyes and ears of our community to report intelligence and any suspicious activity to police,” said Chief Inspector Laura Marler of Greater Manchester Police.

The handbook tells taxi drivers that they should trust their instincts in reporting anything that they believe to be suspicious.

A case study describes a teenage girl on the way to the airport speaking on the phone to someone who she says she will meet her that night on the border of Syria. Another described a mobile phone left in the back of a taxi with a Nazi symbol as a screensaver.

“Preventing terrorism is challenging because it operates in a pre-criminal space before any criminal activity has taken place. It is about supporting and protecting people who might be susceptible to radicalisation, ensuring that they are diverted away before any crime is committed,” it says.

“The nature of your job means you are in contact with people all day long and in some cases for long periods of time. You will know instinctively when someone is acting suspiciously or if something is out of the norm.”

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council confirmed that the contents of the handbook were included in safeguarding tests for taxi licence applicants.

In Dartford, councillors in June agreed to introduce Prevent training as part of the “knowledge test” for taxi license applicants. A star-rated “Better Cab” accreditation scheme was introduced in which to acquire the maximum three-star rating drivers were required “to undertake and pass Council’s Prevent Training”.

A safeguarding advice document for drivers advises them to “take note of odd or unusual behaviour by tenants or guests at a property – terrorists need somewhere to live”.

Tougher licensing rules and mandatory safeguarding training for drivers have been introduced by many councils since a 2014 report into child sex abuse in the Yorkshire town of Rotherham concluded that taxi drivers had played a prominent role in the exploitation of hundreds of children over almost two decades.

In Calderdale, 17 men were convicted in June of systematically grooming and sexually abusing teenage girls in Halifax over a number of years.

Representatives of taxi driver trade organisations told MEE that safeguarding schemes were becoming more common, but questioned the inconsistent way in which they were being implemented and the expectation that drivers should monitor their customers.

‘At the end of the day we are only driving cabs’

“Not only have we got to spot potential sex offenders, now we have got to spot terrorists. There are all kinds of courses and schemes that taxi drivers have to take on and they just seem to be getting imposed. At the end of the day we are only driving cabs,” said Wayne Casey of the National Taxi Association.

Casey alos said that trade organisations and unions representing taxi drivers had not been consulted in developing appropriate courses.

Charles Oakes of the Bolton-based Hackney Drivers Association also said it was questionable whether safeguarding training would make any difference.

“It is basically just telling drivers what to look for. Usually these training sessions finish well within an hour,” he said.

“Taxi drivers are expected to be doctors, social workers, all sorts of things that this trade has never needed. I just wonder at times whether the councils are doing this to make themselves look good.”

Prevent, a strand of the government’s counter-terrorism strategy focused on tackling extremism, faces complaints that it is discriminatory against Muslims and based on flawed theories of radicalisation.

Its advocates argue that it is primarily concerned with safeguarding people vulnerable to being drawn into extremism and has made a positive impact in the lives of thousands of people, but questions have been raised about the quality and consistency of training.

MEE revealed earlier this month that 24 courses deemed unsuitable for a Home Office Prevent training catalogue were still being sold to schools and other public sector institutions.

But the extension of Prevent training to taxi drivers highlights the strategy’s reach in the private sector as well.

A spokesperson for the Unite union, which represents taxi drivers, told MEE: “This move has the potential to create an air of suspicion in communities where we should be building unity. Our members feel deeply uncomfortable with this approach and Unite will be lobbying politicians to rethink this ill thought out strategy.”

Kevin Blowe, the co-ordinator of the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol), part of the Together Against Prevent activist campaign, said it was questionable whether making the training mandatory was legal.

“I don’t understand how this is lawful, because taxi drivers are neither public bodies nor government contractors,” he told MEE.

“If local councils start demanding that everyone they license must act as Prevent’s ‘eyes and ears,’ then that could spread to include landlord accreditation schemes, food premises, even music venues.

“It’s bending the laws to try and bring more and more people into the army of snoopers.”

Choudary, of the IHRC, said: “The UK has turned into a counter-terrorism state. A state in which the government views people, particularly Muslims, through a security prism and also encourages communities to view one another in the same way. This is the government getting its citizens to spy on one another.”

Middle East Eye sought comment several times from Calderdale Council but a spokesperson said there was nobody available. Dartford Borough Council did not respond to requests for comment.

 

source: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/taxi-drivers-prevent-training-767435376

 

Commons Questions

13th September 2016

Sarah Champion Shadow Minister (Home Office)

To ask the Secretary of State for Transport, with reference to the letter of the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State to the right hon. Member for Rotherham on 8 July 2016, on clause 145 of the Policing and Crime Bill, when the Government expects to publish a timetable for its (a) consultation on tax and private hire vehicle licensing and (b) publication of guidance.

Andrew Jones Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Government expects to publish the timetable for the full public consultation on the local authority Best Practice Guidance for Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles in advance of Royal Assent of the Policing and Crime Bill. The government aims to launch the full public consultation upon Royal Assent of the Bill.

The Guidance will be published following completion of the full public consultation and once any amendments have been made.

Nov 27

Southampton taxi driver spared ban over red light error

A TAXI driver narrowly avoided being stripped of his driving licence after he claimed his family would suffer if he was not able to work.

Abdul Shafic, 36, told Southampton magistrates how he wouldn’t be able to afford the rent on his home he shared with his wife and four children if he lost  his job. He also explained how he was largely responsible for taking his children to school due to his wife suffering from a vertigo condition that left her suffering migraines nearly every day and  that she was reliant on him to take her to the doctors.

Shafic, of Hartington Road, Southampton, drove through a red light – an offence which would attract points on his licence, which was already endorsed with nine points for several speeding offences  and which would have led to an automatic ban.

He admitted failing to stop at a red light at Northam Road on May 26, claiming he was on his way to take a woman to the city’s maternity unit, but pleaded a  case of exceptional hardship that others would suffer if he lost his livelihood should he be disqualified and be unable to work.

Magistrates accepted his case and instead of a ban fined him £83, put three points on his licence,and ordered him to pay £335 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

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

Nov 26

Chesterfield Taxis can’t give heroes welcome

CONFUSED cabbies have been told they can’t display ‘Heroes Welcome’ stickers in their taxis – despite the scheme being supported by the council.

The stickers – part of a national scheme backed by Chesterfield Borough Council to show gratitude to the armed forces – are meant for display in shop and taxi windows.

But after a civic launch of the scheme into the borough, the council said the stickers are not classed as “approved signage” and cannot be displayed in taxis.

Cabbie, Eric Needham, said: “Our lads are fighting out there trying to keep this country safe. What’s a sticker going to hurt?”

A council spokesman, said: “Current policy means that hackney and private hire vehicles can’t display any signage unless it’s approved by the Council or required by legislation. However, a report on this matter is being prepared to consider whether our policy can be amended so that good causes such as the Heroes Welcome campaign can be supported.”

It will be discussed in cabinet next week.

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

Nov 26

NI taxi industry on its knees, claims cabbie

Derry’s taxi industry is being strangled by spiralling costs, fewer fares and a continuing influx of new drivers, it has been claimed.

A local cabbie, who wishes to remain anonymous says drivers are now “completely demoralised” and are forced to work in excess of 70 hours each week to make a decent wage.

“There’s less money about so fewer fares but at the same time fuel, insurance and radio rental costs are still rising,” the driver told the ‘Journal.’

The driver says the attitude of some firms in the city does not help drivers.

“In recent years a number of the city’s smaller firms have been bought over by bigger taxi companies.

“Companies are aware of the difficulties drivers are facing and still they take drivers on. It’s simple, more drivers means more rent.”

The driver says taxi companies hiking up radio rent has become commonplace.

“An increase of £5 a week on radio rent for a firm with 200 drivers means the company makes £52,000 extra a year. There’s a feeling among some drivers that to do that is nothing short of corporate greed, albeit on a smaller scale.

“It’s completely demoralising”

The cabbie says starting at 5am and finishing around 11pm is not uncommon.

“You are forced into working hours that are illegal. It’s not good for your family life, nor for your health.

Taxi drivers don’t have the option of going in and speaking to the boss – there would be a pretty short answer – ‘away you go, there’s plenty more people looking for work’.”

Andrew McCartney of the North West Taxi Proprietors Association says there are a number of issues affecting the industry.

He says the NWTP continue to lobby for the full implementation of the Taxis Act – legislation first mooted in 2007, and that is designed to bring greater regulation to the industry.

“It seems to have been lost to bureaucracy but we will continue to lobby for its implementation as soon as possible.

“It will not cure all ills, but it will help,” he says.

source: http://www.derryjournal.com/news/business/taxi_industry_on_its_knees_claims_cabbie_1_3284554

Nov 25

Thugs wound taxi driver in “particularly vicious” attack

Police say a taxi-driver has “significant injuries” after a gang of men dragged him from his car and attacked him with a bottle in the middle of the road in Newtown on Wednesday.

The victim, a 34-year-old man from Earley, was sitting in his black cab on the corner of Manchester Road and Radstock Road when the group of men smashed the window of his car and forced him out of the door at around 11.10pm.

They then set upon him in the street leaving him with cuts to his face, head and hands – police believe the injuries were caused by a bottle.

The man sought refuge in a nearby van and officers say they would like to speak to the van driver as he could have valuable information.

The victim was taken to the Royal Berkshire Hospital and has since been moved to Wexham Park hospital in Slough for specialist treatment.

Case investigator Dominique Lockwood from Reading CID said: “This was a particularly vicious attack and we are keen to locate any witnesses to the assault, anyone who saw the victim being chased or anyone who saw the vehicle the offenders may have left in.

“We also want to trace a man who was approached by the victim after the attack, who was parked nearby in a white van.

“The victim got into the man’s van to avoid his attackers and his injuries would have been obvious at this point.

“At this stage we do not have a motive for the attack.”

Anyone with information can call the 24-hour police non-emergency hotline on 101 or the charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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

Nov 25

Seven years jail for sex assault Paignton cab driver

Jordan Brokenshire

A PAIGNTON cab driver has been jailed for seven years for sexually assaulting two female passengers.

Jordan Brokenshire, 28, preyed on two women he drove home from nights out in Torquay.

He was convicted at Exeter Crown Court last month of two counts of assault and two of sexual activity without consent.

He was sentenced at Truro Crown Court today.

Judge Graham Cottle said Brokenshire targeted vulnerable women for his “own sexual desires”.

The judge said: “You have a worrying attitude towards women. You believe you have some sort of sexual entitlement.”

Both women, one 18 and the other 21, were assaulted on the same Friday night in 2010.

Following the sentencing Detective Sergeant Rob Youngman said: “Jordan Brokenshire was today convicted of four separate sexual assaults against two young women who were preyed upon during the course of his employment as a taxi driver in Torbay and whilst they were vulnerable due to alcohol.

“The seven-year sentence today is welcomed by the investigating officer and those victims who were brave enough to come forward and report these serious crimes.

“Evidence of a prior sexual assault was admitted as bad character demonstrating Brokenshire’s propensity to target young vulnerable women and we would like to again thank that victim for coming forward.

“Throughout the investigation, the victims have been supported by specially-trained officers to assist with the investigation and trial that Brokenshire elected to subject them to.

“Throughout the trial, he refused to acknowledge any responsibility for his offending behaviour and, as such, the sentence given today goes some way to demonstrate the utter contempt he had for the feelings of the victims.

“I wish to stress that Brokenshire worked in isolation of other professional and responsible taxi drivers. However, I would like to take the opportunity as the festive season approaches to remind everyone to ensure you plan your trip home, whether on foot or on public or private transport.”

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

Nov 25

Wigan Driver’s anger at taxi assault

Taxi driver Karen Melling, who was assaulted in her Hackney carriage

A FEMALE Hackney Carriage driver says she feels let down by the police after her attacker walked free.

Karen Melling, 33, of Whelley, claims she was assaulted by a man who became angry after he was told his fare would be £1 more than he expected.

But following more than an hour at the police station in Wigan, Ms Melling was told no-one could be charged as the man denied the claims and was backed up by his girlfriend, who was also in the vehicle.

She was told she needed an independent witness and proof of who the attacker was before police could act.

The alleged offence took place at around 1.30am on Sunday, when she picked up a young couple from Wallgate.

Karen said: “I took the couple to their address in Newtown and I asked for the fare, which was £6. The man went ballistic, saying it was only £5. I said that if they were not going to pay, I would drive to the police station and he pulled my handbrake and told me to stop the car.

“He then started kicking the car door and I had to drive with the car door open and his hand on the handbrake.

“He got his hand around my neck and started to strangle me. Then he hit me in the head and dragged me out of the car and started to beat me up.”

She rang the police and officers arrested a 22-year-old man. But she was later told that her alleged attacker was released without charge due to lack of evidence.

Miss Melling, who has been a Hackney Carriage driver since 2009, said: “I feel so angry and let down. I have been attacked and the police have let my attacker walk free. I have always felt safe, but now I feel vulnerable. I lost three hours of earnings and could not work for three days because I had no car. My neck and hands are really sore and I have a scrape under my chin.”

Supt Bob Lomas, of Wigan police, said: “When this report of an assault came in, my officers thoroughly investigated the circumstances. The victim did not require any medical attention which made it hard to prove that any assault had taken place.

“Nor could it be proven that there had been any damage to the victim’s taxi.

“All of this meant there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone with any criminal offences.

“The criminal justice system has thresholds at every stage in the process where the question of whether there would be enough evidence to prove criminality to a court, beyond reasonable doubt. We take every report of an attack on a taxi driver in Wigan very seriously, as we did in this case.”

source: http://www.wigantoday.net/

Nov 25

Teenager charged over Middleton taxi driver attack

A teenager has been charged in connection with an attack in which a taxi driver had his throat cut in Greater Manchester.

A 39-year-old man was attacked and had his car stolen in Middleton at about 21:30 GMT on 15 November.

A 16-year-old boy, who cannot be named, has been charged with robbery, Section 18 Assault and aggravated vehicle taking.

He is due before Rochdale Magistrates’ Court later today.

The taxi driver was taken to hospital for treatment to his injuries, which were not life threatening, and has since been discharged.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-15885214

Nov 25

Watchdog called in after taxi CCTV complaint

THE UK’s data watchdog is investigating a complaint about controversial moves to record all conversations in Oxford’s taxis.

The Information Commissioner said it had received a complaint from a member of the public over Oxford City Council’s plans.

It follows an outcry over the scheme, which council chiefs and taxi leaders say is vital to protect drivers from attacks and allegations.

A civil liberties group said the cameras – which have to be in all 662 taxis by March 2015 – are an invasion of privacy.

They would record video and sound as soon as the key is turned in the ignition and for 30 minutes after it is switched off.

Footage would only be accessed by a council officer or police when investigating specific allegations.

Commissioner spokesman Greg Jones said: “We have received a complaint and are making inquiries.”

He said councils “must take account of people’s right to privacy” and take measures “proportionate” to safety concerns.

Council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “We have had an inquiry from the Information Commissioner who wishes to better understand the CCTV scheme.

“We are happy to assist in those inquiries.”

Alan Woodward, general secretary of the City of Oxford Licensed Taxi Cab Association, has stepped down after 16 years.

He cited the row and “personal reasons” for his decision.

Mr Woodward, who backs the CCTV scheme, said: “The drivers don’t seem to know what they want. They need to make up their mind.”

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

Nov 24

The Casey Column

The Casey Column

By

Wayne Casey

(LL SC)

 

The views expressed in this column may not be those of the

National Taxi Association

End of Days?

My friend in Sefton loves the way I write, he has to dig out his dictionary, check out all the large words and then work out if I’m insulting him. However, this month he is not going to have to bother. I am going to write this in clear and concise language (okay, the word ‘concise’ may be a problem straight away).

Ladies and Gentlemen. There is a shit storm brewing on the horizon; you better put on your cape and wellies.

Unless you do something about it, and I’m talking by the time you finish reading this article, I predict a truly ghastly future. Can you remember the movie Ghostbusters? There was a scene where the Ghostbusters were hauled out of jail to meet the Mayor, they described what was going to happen if zuul and the gatekeeper weren’t stopped.

“Old Testament biblical, Mr. Mayor. Real wrath-of-God-type stuff!

Fire and brimstone coming from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling! Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes! Volcanoes! The dead rising from the grave! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!”

 

Is this going to happen to the cab trade? Fire and brimstone, perhaps not, but isn’t going to be good.

I am talking nationwide delimitation, irrespective of any area or local authority desires. I am talking about you losing any value you attach, or hope to attach to your business. I am talking potential bankruptcy. I am talking the potential loss of your house.  I am talking you being forced to join a radio circuit. I am talking you maybe having to buy a vehicle you don’t particularly want.

Like all good stories let me start at the beginning, because some of you may have been told straight faced lies or half-truths, especially those of you who are based in the North West, who seem to also believe in fairies down the bottom of your garden.

It is rumoured you have been told, because of some court ruling in London, private hire from other areas will soon disappear from the streets of your City. Let me tell you, there has been no such court case.

I will interject at this point because some of you have been constantly bemoaning current legislation as not fit for purpose. Indeed, some of you may have urged others to approach government. You appear to have conveniently ignored the vast majority of areas where the acts actually work without too much of a problem. The shit storm you have created will have repercussions to us all, we now have to reap the whirlwind.

What has happened, (and I did tell you this many months ago). The law commission are looking into modernising taxi and private hire law. Indeed, Norman Baker more or less told you so during the select committee enquiry when he stated;

“I have asked the Law Commission in fact whether they would consider this as one of their project areas to look at, which is, hopefully, an interesting and successful way of dealing with this matter, because it is quite complicated.”

As you will now be aware, the law commission accepted the task and have been given a remit by government. One of removing unnecessary regulatory controls, one of removing red tape and burdens to both local authorities and business. (If you don’t believe me, look on their website)

The question you need ask yourself is what does this mean.

The NTA were told by the law commission that they would not listen to an economic argument for retaining numbers control. The fact this was mentioned suggests it is in their minds.

Did you read that? Does that not make it clear?

Did you know that 76% of all local authorities do not have numbers control?

What this thing will mean in terms of the cab trade blows the OFT report of just under a decade ago, clear out of the water, because the changes possible are actually limitless.

We are potentially talking much larger licensing areas, we are possibly talking the end of the HC Drivers license in favour of a dual license, the fact they are
considering the current separate licensing systems for hackney carriages and private hire could possibly mean a quite dramatic changed future for everyone.

This thing will not only affect the provinces, it will affect London too.

So the question is, what can we do to avoid the shit storm?

Well, there isn’t any avoiding it, don’t think its going to go away, because it isn’t. The one blessing we have is that we do have a little time. This time needs to be used to get organised, it is a little breathing space to build up contacts and funding.

Let me address those issues one at a time.

I will attend any meeting you call with your mates to calmly explain what I think we should do, and the price I charge is quite reasonable……..but then hey…..I don’t stand to lose £50K plus on a cab and plate. I’ll even do something I’ve only done once (not buy a drink) a power point presentation.

What do I mean by organised?

We are lucky to have a magazine such as Taxitalk. We have at least one bit of media that is nationally circulated each month, in this way people across the country will be kept up-to date with what is going on as this thing goes through its various stages.

However, it would be negligent of me not to point out how weak the cab trade is in many parts of the country. The taxis that use Manchester airport (a reported 500) had to go cap in hand to the NTTG (National Taxi Trades Group) in order to loan a paltry sum to challenge Manchester City Council……that’s right 500 cab drivers couldn’t be bothered to put in £4 each to get something that would benefit them all started.  In a great deal of the country the cab trade isn’t organised at all and when it does organise itself it’s attempts are more often re-active at the back end of some local authority initiative.

This has to change if we (you) stand any chance whatsoever.

We have to keep in contact. E mail’s area fast and inexpensive way to keep people informed, to circulate documents and suchlike. But most of all it’s clearly important everyone is kept informed, because in the months preceding this article, you haven’t been.

Plans and Goals

The taxi trade need to take this thing head on. We do not need loose cannons firing off shots in every direction, especially our own.

Every business needs stability, we don’t need dramatic change in the midst of a recession, the status quo has a few problems……it needs local authorities working with the trade to address these, not national government approaching it with a sledgehammer.

To this end, we need to have a grasp of where we want to go and how we’re going to get there.

We additionally need a ‘plan b’, nothing in life goes exactly how you want it to, we need a strategy which will consider the invariables.

Funding

The bottom line is people will have to dig into their pockets, this isn’t actually a guarantee of any success. Nevertheless, we must try.

Stationary, travel and hotels do not come cheap, they cost money. Indeed, you can hardly expect people to work for nothing.

Members of both Parliament and the House of Lords need spoken to, now, everyone has those.

The figure we need? Good question, what do you stand to lose? Is £20 too much to start? Is that about 4 jobs during dayshift?

The question is…..is it worth saving?

Have a peaceful Christmas….the New Year will be anything but.

Wayne Casey

 

Nov 24

Taxi driver reported for ‘road traffic offences’ after cab ploughs into BHS store

The black cab smashed into a window of the store in Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow city centre.

Crash: The taxi smashed into the window of BHS in Glasgow

A taxi driver has been reported over alleged road traffic offences after his cab smashed into a department store.

The 54-year-old was not injured in the incident that saw his black Hackeny end up crashing into the window of BHS on the corner of Sauchiehall Street and Renfield Street.

The taxi ploughed into the store window after a collision involving a bus in Renfield Street at around 1.15pm.

A man and a woman were passengers in the cab at the time of the incident. The woman required treatment from paramedics at the scene for minor injuries.

A Strathclyde Police spokeswoman said: “A 54-year-old man has been reported to the procurator fiscal for alleged road traffic offences following the incident.”

Police and ambulance were at the scene of the smash which occurred in one of Glasgow’s busiest pedestrianised thoroughfares.

source: http://news.stv.tv/

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