House of Lords Questions

Transport: Women’s Safety


Asked by Lord Berkeley

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what action they are currently taking to improve women’s safety on transport.

The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Baroness Kramer) (LD): My Lords, we work on a number of fronts to improve safety and security for all passengers and staff. In particular, the Government are supporting a British Transport Police-led academic literature and tactical review on reducing sexual offending and improving perceptions of safety on transport. This research will be delivered for February 2015 and will support an international expert session to debate the findings.

Lord Berkeley (Lab): I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. Is she aware of a study recently done in the UK and Canada that found that,

“women passengers generally prefer staffing to technological solutions and are very skeptical of the tendency of”—

transport operators—

“to replace staff from trains or buses with automated machines”.

Will she encourage operators to have more staff and fewer machines and CCTV and to recruit more women to the front line, which women also prefer in many instances?

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, I completely agree with recruiting women to the front line. It is also important to have a staff presence where that is feasible. I am very encouraged, for example, by Transport for London’s commitment to take staff out of the ticket offices and put them out on the platforms and places where the passengers are. However, if we were to man every station at all hours at all times, we would unfortunately have to close stations because of the inherent cost.

Baroness Scott of Needham Market (LD): Does the Minister share my concerns about the cycle rickshaws or pedicabs that operate in parts of central London? Unlicensed, the drivers are not required to be trained or insured; nor do they undergo CRB checks. Do the Government intend to take up the recommendation of the Law Commission and create local authority licensing for them?

Baroness Kramer: My noble friend is absolutely right: the Law Commission has provided some instructive direction on this. We received the Law Commission’s report in May. We will be following up on that and providing our response shortly. As she knows, the situation on licensing is somewhat different in London from elsewhere.

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): My Lords, why are the Government pressing ahead with Clause 12 of the Deregulation Bill? It supposedly frees us from red tape but actually reduces the safety checks on minicabs. Will the Minister review the Government’s approach—there is still time in the legislation—in the light of the recent case reported by the Daily Mail this weekend of a young woman who was taken from Leeds to Bradford where she was attacked and raped? Will the Minister accept that this is not just a triviality about red tape: it is about reducing the chances of gang rape? The criminals involved got sentences totalling 68 years.

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, as the noble Lord, Lord Davies, knows, even under the deregulated mechanisms, whenever a taxi or private car licence is issued there will be a CRB check every three years. I have also written to all the authorities to remind them that they should be working with their local police so that wherever there is an accusation or a crime they are immediately informed and can take appropriate action—and I do not just mean in a taxi cab, but where someone is accused.

Lord Borwick (Con): My Lords, I first declare an interest in the register that my wife is a Deputy Mayor of London and a member of the GLA. Will the Minister encourage the London Tube unions to allow Tube drivers who are not needed to drive the new automatic trains to walk along the carriages in the evening to improve the safety of women passengers rather than sitting in their cabins with nothing to do except open the doors?

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, I hope that all staff are totally aware of the priority that we must give safety to passengers. In any situation where it is safe, I would encourage staff to use an opportunity to make sure that safety is enhanced.

Baroness Farrington of Ribbleton (Lab): My Lords, would the Minister care to expand a little on her reply to my noble friend Lord Davies about the deregulation proposals? How can people be assured of safety without reference to anyone? Someone who has a minicab licence in place A can go to place B. It is not a safety or security issue. Will she please get the Government to reconsider their policy on this? I declare an interest in that the noble Baroness, Lady Gardner of Parkes, and I were involved in getting licensing for minicabs, and this—to mix a metaphor—drives a coach and horses through that.

Baroness Kramer: My Lords, the licensing of minicabs absolutely remains in place. It means that an operator can call a cab not just from within their own fleet but from a neighbouring area. That also has to be a licensed cab driver. The operator remains responsible for the journey.

New training for cabbies in Nottingham

TAXI drivers in Nottingham could be forced to take safeguarding training, according to a new report.

Nottingham City Council will next week consider whether to insist that combined hackney carriage and private hire drivers take the course.

These are drivers that are given the licence to drive both private hire vehicles and black cabs.

According to documents the training would be aimed at helping drivers “identify a vulnerable person” and “raise their understanding of the relationship between driver and vulnerable person and their responsibilities in this area.”

The changes if approved, would be effective from January 1 and apply to all new applicants for private hire or hackney carriage driver licenses in Nottingham.

All existing combined hackney carriage and private hire drivers will also be required to attend as part of their renewal process.

Failure to attend training might lead to drivers’ licenses not being granted.

The matter will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s Regulatory and Appeals Committee takes place on Monday, December 1 at Loxley House.

Read more:


‘Racist’ mugger who ordered his dogs to attack Asian taxi driver with command ‘kill him, kill him’ is jailed for eight years

  • Guy Wallace, aged 20, used his two dogs to attack taxi driver Sajid Hussain

    Guy Wallace, who has been jailed for eight years after ordering his dogs to attack an Asian taxi driver before robbing him of his takings

  • Was heard shouting ‘Kill him, kill him’ after hurling racist abuse at driver
  • Mr Hussain suffered a bleed on the brain and a broken eye and nose socket
  • Taxi driver also had his £120 takings stolen and his mobile phone snatched
  • Wallace was arrested after a witnesses recognised him on Facebook
  • Admitted robbery and owning a dangerous dog at Burnley Crown Court
  • Jailed for eight years after judge described the case as a ‘terrifying incident’

A violent mugger who ordered his dogs to attack an Asian taxi driver by shouting ‘kill him, kill him’ after hurling racist abuse has been jailed for eight years.

Guy Wallace, 20, used his Alsatian and Staffordshire bull terrier as ‘weapons’ to maul Sajid Hussain and was also overheard shouting: ‘Go get him boy’ before robbing the victim of his takings.

Mr Hussain suffered multiple bites to his body during the attack and feared for his life as Wallace also shouted a torrent of racial abuse, which was heard by witnesses, and threatened to stab him with a machete.

The victim was left covered in blood with ‘shocking’ injuries, including a brain bleed and a smashed nose and eye socket.

He also had £120 snatched from a pocket and his mobile phone taken.

Father-to-be Wallace, from Accrington, Lancashire, who has a record for violence, was caught after a witness to the horrifying attack on May 17 recognised him on Facebook as he posed for pictures with the two dogs.

At Burnley Crown Court Wallace admitted robbery and being the owner of a dog which caused injury whilst dangerously out of control in a public place.

The German Shepherd, which was thought to have been trained to respond to orders to kill, was ordered to be destroyed.

Prosecutor Robert Elias told the hearing how Mr Hussain, who worked at Max Cabs in Accrington, finished his shift at 2.30am, parked his car outside his base and started to walk home.

He walked past Wallace’s flat and as he did so heard a voice shout: ‘Kill him, kill him.’

He looked up and saw Wallace with his Alsatian and was pointing towards Mr Hussain and goading the animal to become aggressive.

A fierce-looking German Shepherd then ran at the victim, biting the top of his thigh and knocking him to the ground.

Mr Elias said Wallace ran over and began to kick Mr Hussain to the head and body whilst he was on the ground.

The court heard that Wallace, pictured, used his Alsation and Staffordshire bull terrier as ‘weapons’ to maul the victim Sajid Hussain

The victim was trying to protect himself as the dog was still biting him.

The prosecutor said: ‘He was in fear of his life and the risk on the ground of a dog biting you is obvious.’

The prosecutor added that a second, younger dog, a Staffordshire bull terrier, then joined in and bit Mr Hussain near his left shin.

The victim managed to get up and staggered back to the taxi office. CCTV showed him returning to the road where the base was.

At the far end of the road, the dogs and the defendant could be seen attacking him and a man seemed to be pulling Wallace off the victim.

Mr Elias continued: ‘It’s clear the complainant was pursued by two dogs. He alerted the men working in the office. They came to his rescue and called the police. The dogs pursued him when he tried to escape.’

Wallace tried to grab Mr Hussain’s mobile phone and took £120 from the victim’s jacket pocket, ripping his clothes.

The prosecutor continued: ‘The defendant was seen by witnesses to be bouncing around as if under the influence of drunk or drugs.

‘He was heard by Mr Hussain and other witnesses to shout foul racial abuse at him and the other men.’

Mr Elias told the court Wallace had hold of the German Shepherd by the scruff of the neck, trying to goad it, saying, ‘Get em, get em boy.’

The dog was released again and the men retreated into the cab office to help Mr Hussain.

The prosecutor said Mr Hussain’s injuries were ‘quite shocking’ -his right eye was bruised and shut and he had bite marks to his legs.

He was taken to hospital, where the acute surgical team examined him and gave him a tetanus injection and intra-venous antibiotics,

A CT scan showed he had a brain bleed and fractures to his nose and eye socket. He was admitted and later referred to a maxillofacial consultant.

Wallace was later arrested but claimed the Alsatian escaped and he told Mr Hussain to calm down as he was panicking. He denied any racial comments and robbery.

The prosecutor added: ‘One of the witnesses recognised the defendant as he went to school with him and recognised him on Facebook.’

Wallace had 24 offences on his record, including affray and wounding.

Wallace was caught by police after a witness to the attack recognised him from pictures he posted of himself and the two dogs, pictured, on Facebook

Mr Elias said a police officer who went to see the German Shepherd considered it to be completely out of control and extremely frightening.

The other dog ‘could be salvaged’ and the RSPCA could be given custody of it and try and retrain and rehome it if they chose to.

Jonathan Dickinson, defending Wallace, whose girlfriend is due to give birth in December, said his client had ‘a lot of alcohol which almost certainly disinhibited him.’

Mr Dickinson added: ‘This is certainly not a carefully conceived plan to rob the unfortunate victim. He committed an offence which was horrific, but unplanned and reckless.

‘Once sober the following day, he couldn’t understand why he had acted in the way he did.

‘He realises alcohol has a very negative impact on his behaviour and he’s trying to get himself help.

‘He says he has severed contact with his criminal associates. He appears to be committed and motivated to change his ways.’

But passing sentence the judge Mr Recorder Peter Atherton said: ‘It as a terrifying incident for Mr Hussain. It has been severely disturbing for him.

‘Your dog was clearly your main weapon of attack. The robbery was incidental to the gratuitous violence which preceded it.’

Read more:

David Mellor recorded in furious row with taxi driver

Mr Mellor accompanied his partner Lady Penelope Cobham at an event at Buckingham Palace before taking the taxi in Marylebone High Street

Mellor is used to putting his foot in his mouth

Former Conservative cabinet minister David Mellor has been secretly recorded having a heated row with a London taxi driver, a newspaper has reported.

He was recorded arguing about the best route to take to his preferred destination, the Sun wrote.

Mr Mellor is heard recounting some of his lifetime achievements in an attempt to persuade the taxi driver of 10 years that his way is the quickest.

A source close to Mr Mellor said the driver had provoked him.

The source also added that the argument had “ruined a wonderful day” for Mr Mellor.

‘Just shut up’

Mr Mellor climbed into the cab with partner Lady Penelope Cobham, who is the chairwoman of tourism body Visit England, outside a restaurant in Marylebone High Street, central London, at 5.50pm on Friday.

The couple wanted to go five miles to St Katharine Docks, east London, and were charged £29, the paper said.

In the recording Mr Mellor, 65, who served as national heritage secretary in Sir John Major’s government, appears to say: “You don’t know as much about London as I do.”

He adds: “You’ve been driving a cab for 10 years? I have been in the cabinet, I am an award-winning broadcaster, I’m a Queen’s Counsel, you think your experiences are anything compared to mine? Just shut up.

“Drive me whichever way you want, and keep a civil tongue in your head.”

The driver passed the recording to the tabloid newspaper.

Mr Mellor has developed a career as a radio broadcaster since losing his seat in the Commons in 1997.

In 1992 David Mellor resigned as heritage minister, blaming his departure on a constant barrage of hostile stories in the tabloid press.

Earlier in the day Lady Cobham had attended Buckingham Palace to be appointed a CBE for her services to tourism.


May 29

Fine for unlicensed minicab driver caught at Stansted Airport

AN unlicensed private hire driver who picked up a passenger at Stansted Airport has been fined £200 by magistrates and ordered to pay £320 in legal costs.

Barry Meecham, 61, of Latchmore Bank, Great Hallingbury, told a police officer he was doing it as a favour to his wife who did have an Uttlesford District Council (UDC) private hire licence.

Meecham did not attend Chelmsford Magistrates Court today (Wednesday, May 29) or enter a plea to the offence of using a private hire vehicle without a current licence on January 13 this year and magistrates found the case proved in his absence.

Prosecutor Michael Perry, for UDC, told the court a police officer on mobile patrol saw a man with a suitcase waiting near the Radisson Blu Hotel about 8pm and told him he should not be waiting in that area to be picked up. He then saw a Renault Trafic MPV, bearing an UDC licence plate, arrive and the waiting man got in.

The prosecutor said the officer spoke to the driver, Meecham, who said he did not have a private hire licence, but his wife did and it was her business.

“Meecham appeared agitated. He said it was his vehicle, but he was not the registered owner. He couldn’t carry the man as a passenger because he had no licence. He said he was doing his wife a favour,” said Mr Perry.

He added that Meecham’s wife then arrived in another vehicle and she took the customer.


May 29

Fareham taxi drivers hand in petition calling for numbers limit

A 200-STRONG petition calling for a cap on taxi licences was handed to Fareham Borough Council last night.

Fareham Hackney Taxi Association claims there are too many taxis in the town.

There are 233 hackney carriages licensed in Fareham. In neighbouring authorities, Portsmouth is capped at 234 and Southampton is capped at 283, although the population of each of the cities is considerably more than that of Fareham.

Fareham removed its cap 27 years ago, when a taxi company threatened the council with legal action unless it made more licences available.

Fareham Hackney Taxi Association said that now is the time to revisit the regulation.

The association claims that there is not enough work for drivers to go round and that income has been affected.

Secretary of Fareham Hackney Taxi Association Mel Charlton, who runs Meon Cars, said: ‘We are asking the council to stop issuing plates and badges.

‘Any business would not employ more people if there wasn’t enough trade and this should be the same at the council.

‘They are absolutely flooding the market.

‘This weekend most people went to Whiteley. If there’s nothing to come to Fareham for, then there will be no demand for taxis. To keep issuing plates goes against any duty of care that the council should have in making sure we can actually earn a living.’

Chairman of Fareham Hackney Taxi Association Simon Nelson said: ‘The proportion of taxis on Fareham compared to the population is a lot higher than in Portsmouth and Southampton. We don’t make a living any more, we just survive.’

Council leader Sean Woodward said: ‘In Portsmouth, the taxi plates are limited which means they change hands for thousands of pounds.

‘We run an unlimited system which is controlled by the market. If people did not think they could make a living then they would not apply.

‘Also, I would ask them, which ones would want to give up their licences if we brought in a cap which was less?’

The licensing committee will consider whether or not to review the figure and implement a cap.

The council said that a cap would cost £15,000 a year to maintain, which would be added to the cabbies’ annual licence fee.


May 29

Same old, same old in Sunderland

Experience tells us that every fare increase is opposed by elements in the taxi trade, this is a country wide phenomenon and the latest case in point is Sunderland where a small percentage of drivers are petitioning against fare increases.

The usual complaints / fears of those opposed to increases base themselves around unknown factors – these usually include random statements such as “it’s already quiet at the moment”, “the public won’t wear an increase”, “it’ll drive customers away”.

All three arguments, as previously mentioned prey on a drivers mind. However, all three don’t stand up to simple facts and these are based around the costs of running a business. Insurance, due to the claim culture, is a key problem for the taxi trade – other known variables include the cost of fuel and indeed the cost of living.

The nature of taxi fares always mean the cab trade are playing ‘catch up’. The costs of operating at the start of the year when a fare increase is calculated – tend to differ to the same costs one year on. Insurance may have increased, fuel may have increased (indeed it may have increased, then decreased, then increased again). As stated the fare structure is based upon costs now – not those in 12 months time.

For people to use age old arguments – like they do in the following news story – claiming drivers will leave the trade due to a fare increase, isn’t only wildly inaccurate – it also doesn’t stand up to the fact that the table of fares set by a local authority is a ‘maximum’. A driver is fully entitled to charge below the rate and offer a discount if they so wish.

Sunderland Hackney Carriage Operators Association’s bid to restructure the price of journeys for all three tariffs in operation has been approved by the city council.

The changes, which in one case includes a 6.9 per cent hike, will come into force next month if no objections are received.

Association boss Trevor Hines said the rise was regrettable but inevitable, as insurance costs soar.

However, independent cabbie Kevin Stoker has set up an online petition against the rise, which has more than 180 signatures.

He said: “The nightlife in Sunderland is already on its knees, and I really don’t think they have thought this through. It’s going to hit the elderly as well. It’s just going to squeeze us even harder, and I know a lot of lads who don’t want this. I can see a lot of them throwing in the towel and these lads have got families to feed.” Fellow cabbie Gordon Huddleston said: “The vast majority of independent drivers don’t feel there is any justification for this.

“What they are saying is absolute nonsense, and they are using old arguments and excuses for it that don’t represent the views of the drivers.”


May 29

Cabcharge the loser in Australian taxi reform

Cabcharge shares were savaged on Tuesday after the Victorian government said it would step in to force the monopoly payment company to slash fees on electronic payments across state’s 5000-plus cabs, prompting speculation other states would follow suit.

The government detailed plans to cut the card surcharge on Cabcharge’s electronic payment system from 10 per cent to 5 per cent as part of a broader overhaul of the state’s taxi industry.

The move follows the state government adopting nearly all the recommendations of an 18-month inquiry into Victoria’s taxis headed by former competition regulator Allan Fels.

Goldman Sachs analyst Jim Godsil said the decision to cut the surcharge in Victoria would likely have ”ripple effects as taxi regulators in other states take note”. Any moves by NSW to cut fees in taxis would have a major impact on Cabcharge, given that the state ranks as its biggest market.

Cabcharge, which estimates that its electronic payment system is in 97 per cent of Australia’s taxis, closed down 15.3 per cent, or 75¢, to $4.15.

Professor Fels, the former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission who chaired the influential report on which the decision was based, said last year that ”Cabcharge’s tentacles reach everywhere in the industry and any substantial reform in Victoria and elsewhere would have an effect on Cabcharge”.

Cabcharge said in a statement that it would ”study the document … in its entirely and make a considered response in due course”.

Cabcharge founder and chief executive Reg Kermode had previously responded to Professor Fels’ recommendation to cut the card surcharge by saying last December: ”If that’s what you want, you can all go back to cash.”

The move by the Victorian government goes a step further than the Reserve Bank, which attempted to push down charges two years ago. At the time the central bank claimed some fees including those charged by airlines and hotels were a form of raising revenue, rather than covering the cost of the transaction.

In March, the Reserve Bank said it would allow credit card companies to limit surcharges ”where merchants were clearly surcharging at a higher level than is justified”.

Mr Kermode said earlier this year that Cabcharge issued a service fee and not a surcharge.

Goldman Sachs’ Mr Godsil said that although the timing of the surcharge cuts was in the hands of state regulators and credit card companies such as Visa and MasterCard, surcharges looked to be coming down.

The decision to allow taxi licence-owners to operate independently rather than being part of a taxi network reduces the power of the two large taxi networks in Victoria – of which Cabcharge operates one, Mr Godsil added.


May 28

Clydebank taxi drivers annoyed

Clydebank’s taxi drivers were quite annoyed earlier this month and did a demonstration

FRUSTRATED cabbies have insisted more and more Clydebank taxi drivers are facing the reality of being forced off the road.

Currently only drivers working for Clydebank Taxis are allowed to pick up passengers from the taxi rank in the Coldstream North car park after entering into an exclusive deal with Helical Bar PLC, the owners of Clyde Shopping Centre.

It also means other cabbies now have to to pay an extra £80 a week if they want to continue picking up passengers from one of the town’s busiest spots.

Last week one angry driver warned the Post there will be further protests against the decision in the future and said unless something changes there will be stark consequences for the area’s taxi trade.

He said: “We are under increasing pressure and we are being strangled every way possible. If it stays this way, and we can’t get in, it will be hell and the demonstrations will continue until we get some sort of result. If this continues there will be a lot of people going to the wall.

“There’s a whole load of guys who are going to feel it unless they take the radio but even if they do they’ll be £80 more in debt a week which in Clydebank at the moment you can’t afford to do.”

Since we broke the news of the agreement senior members of the council have also been seeking to persuade Helical Bar PLC to reconsider their decision and have said they want a balanced playing field for all local businesses.

Councillor Lawrence O’Neill, convener of licensing, said: “I am of course extremely disappointed regarding the stance taken by Helical Bar as well as the lack of consultation with the council or the local trade prior to concluding the agreement.

“I have asked the clerk to the licensing committee to write to the Scottish Government to ask them to give power to councils to regulate access to taxi ranks created on land that is not within the council’s control. I remain willing to meet with any trade representatives to discuss the issue and consider any other potential solutions that would allow all drivers to ply for their trade without restriction in Clydebank.”

Councillor O’Neill has also worked with senior council managers to exhaust every available legal option to prevent the agreement proceeding but to no avail.

He added: “Unfortunately no clauses could be relied upon. Similarly legal officers were again asked to consider whether any other legal remedy might be available to the council including looking at the possibility of interim interdict. Again, most unfortunately, the advice concluded that there were no legal options open to the Council that might have a reasonable prospect of success.”

Throughout discussions with the council Helical Bar have clearly stated that they believe they have a binding agreement in place and are plan to implement that agreement.


May 28

Charity wades into taxi access controversy

A charity has waded into the controversy over taxis refusing to pick up a teenage wheelchair user.

Jack Milner, 19, of Longton, said he frequently has to wait more than an hour until a taxi driver is prepared to pick him up in Preston city centre, despite all black cabs being fitted with ramps and restraints.

Now The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign has revealed it has been made aware of other similar problems in the area.

Becky Oughton, 37, from Caton, near Lancaster, who also has a form of muscular dystrophy, has been forced to cancel appointments because of a lack of taxi provision.

A charity spokesman said: “Last week she contacted three of the main taxi firms in Lancaster to try and get a taxi to work. She was told that the accessible taxis were all on school runs so she asked if one could come half an hour later.

“She was told that this would constitute pre-booking and ‘you can’t do that on a wheelchair job’. Becky has had to cancel meeting up with friends as there is limited accessibility of taxis in the area post 4pm.

“Accessible cabs only tend to be available between 10am and 4pm which isn’t ideal when trying to get into work and socialise afterwards.

Becky has to rely on her partner for lifts, but last week he was ill and unable to drive.

She said: “If I was relying on taxis and public transport for my job I’d have lost it because I was late three or four times last week. I would have no social life whatsoever.

“I was so upset. It was really stressful. It makes you feel really frustrated.”

Becky is part of the Trailblazers group, which campaigns on social issues affecting young disabled people.

Bobby Ancil, project manager of Trailblazers, said: “A lot of money has been spent on making taxis accessible, and despite the infrastructure being in place, the real the problem is all too often the attitude of drivers.

“The Trailblazers are outraged that taxi drivers with accessible vehicles are not picking them up – discriminating against them as paying customers. In many cases we hear about it is the driver’s attitude that can lead to a person being left stranded.

“The freedom to be spontaneous and hail a taxi on the street should be the same for anyone, regardless of whether they are disabled.”


May 28

Issues of seaworthiness with Ford Mondeo

A taxi driver who drove onto a beach had to be rescued by holidaymakers after being stranded by the incoming tide.

Polish driver Krzysztof Tomaszek was seen driving through the waves as the water surrounded his vehicle.

Concerned members of the public went and rescued him from the Ford Mondeo on Brean beach in Burnham-on-Sea, Somerset.

Dave Borton said he called the coastguard after seeing the car was being swamped by water on Sunday evening.

‘I was concerned for his safety – he was trying to drive the car to safety through the waves even though the sea had totally surrounded the vehicle,’ he said.

‘I called the Coastguard and, with the help of another holidaymaker, we managed to get him out of the car and then a few of his belongings.’

Mr Tomaszekwho was shaken and cold but otherwise unhurt, thanked those who came to his rescue.

He said: ‘I drove onto the beach at 4.30pm and when I bought my parking ticket someone said I could stay until the beach closed at 8pm, but I was unaware that there was a very high tide.’

‘We went off for a walk and I was shocked to come back and find the car surrounded by the sea.

‘I managed to get in and tried to drive it away but the engine kept cutting out and two guys helped me out of the car by opening the driver’s door and getting some belongings out. They were just great.’

Brean’s beach warden and Coastguards from Burnham-On-Sea were quickly on the scene but there was nothing that could be done to save the vehicle.

Beach motorists have again been advised to check tide times before using the beach.

Brean beach is the second longest stretch of sand in Europe and lies on the north Somerset coast which has some of the fastest and highest tidal ranges in the world.

Read more:

May 28

North Tyneside minicab drivers permitted to use bus lane pending review

Minicab drivers have welcomed a council’s review of bus lanes following a dispute.

Earlier this year minicab drivers were being hit with £60 fines by North Tyneside Council for using the new Balliol Bus Link, despite a sign saying the road can be used by buses, cyclists and taxis.

Stephen McGuinness said around 30 of his drivers had been fined because the authority said the road was for the use of hackney carriages rather than private-hire cars.

The council insisted it was common knowledge when signs indicate a taxi is permitted to use the road, it refers to hackney carriages only.

But the authority has now started a review of the bus lane network.

Letters have gone out to invite feedback.

The review will explore how best bus lanes can be used to ensure the easy movement of public transport as well as supporting the needs of businesses.

In the meantime, private hire drivers are allowed to use bus lanes in the borough, pending the outcome of the consultation.

Coun Frank Lott, cabinet member for economic development, said: “We need to find a solution that works for the majority, so it is important that we get as wide involvement in this consultation as possible.

“The bus lanes play an important part in our public transport network, but we also need to ensure they work to support our businesses and the sustained viability of our town centres.

“This review will aim to provide some clarity for all road users about who is allowed to use bus lanes and who shouldn’t and enable a clear and consistent enforcement policy to be put in place.”

Duane Davidson, supervisor with a minicab firm, said: “We are pleased this review is being carried out and we will definitely be putting forward our comments about the issue.


May 28

Victorian taxi drivers must pass ‘knowledge exam’ under sweeping reforms

MELBOURNE taxi drivers will have to pass a knowledge exam and customers will pay more on weekends in the biggest ever overhaul of the industry.

Premier Denis Napthine announced annual taxi licence fees will be $22,000 in metropolitan zones – allowing more entry to the market – and taxi drivers will get a guaranteed 55 per cent of takings – up from 50 per cent.

There will be lower fares for customers at off-peak times, but weekend revellers will face up to 20 per cent higher fares on Friday and Saturday nights.

In some cases, fares will move from prescribed amounts to “maximum fares”, allowing customers to haggle for discounted rates if they are travelling to the airport.

The service fee for card payments will be slashed from 10 per cent to five per cent.

What do you think of the changes? Let us know by answering the poll questions below

A new “knowledge exam” will be introduced for drivers in metropolitan areas with drivers only accredited if they pass.

The test will cover driving skills, English language proficiency and key sights and routes around Melbourne.

Some restrictions on the number of new taxi licences will be removed and a four-tier taxi zone system will be brought in.

The watchdog overseeing the system will have new powers in a bid to clean up the industry.

Dr Napthine said the reforms were the biggest the industry had ever seen and would give passengers a better deal following the 16 month inquiry headed by Professor Allan Fels.

He said it would take up to three years for the taxi industry reforms to be fully implemented.

“Our reforms will create a more flexible, responsive and innovative taxi industry that puts the customer first,” Dr Napthine said.

He said the knowledge exam and changes to driver pay would be good for Victorians.

“They will provide customers with higher quality, more reliable and safer services and ensure drivers are properly remunerated, trained and knowledgeable,” he said.

Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder said new fares would not be implemented until next year.

He said he would refer the potential fare hikes to the Essential Services Commission.

Victorian Taxi Association CEO David Samuel said the industry was concerned with how the reforms would impact licence plate holders.

He said licence plates, currently valued at about $350,000, would decrease and there were concerns for people who owned them.

“There are areas of concern. That won’t come as a surprise to the Government. We are concerned about the future of taxi operators and taxi licence holders,” Mr Samuel said.

“What we are concerned about is open entry to the industry, which could see massive oversupply, a decline in service standards for customers, an increase in price and also taxi businesses being put up against the wall.”

Changes to licences

The Premier announced annual taxi licence fees will be $22,000 in metropolitan zones, $17,000 in urban and large regional areas, $11,000 for regional locations and $3,400 in country areas.

Fees will be indexed to CPI minus 0.5 per cent, which is contrary to recommendations from the taxi industry inquiry.

In his report last year, Prof Fels recommended a flat $20,000 annual fee for taxi licences.

The annual fee to be introduced for licences will relieve pressure on fares, the Government said.

Cab driver Steven Kowalski told the Herald Sun that more licences on the market would mean fewer customers for drivers.

Mr Kowalski said this would make their salaries worse overall despite the pay boost per fare.

“We are going to put more cars on the roads,” he said.

“There’s too many cars on the road already. Nothing will change for us.”

Dr Napthine said perpetual licence holders could rent their licences out for $25,000 or $26,000 a year.

“The difference between what Allan Fels recommended and what we are introducing is two-fold. Firstly we have gone from $20,000 to $22,000 (a year for new licences),” Dr Napthine said.

“Secondly and most importantly we have introduced an indexation rate on top of that and the indexation rate is CPI less 0.5 per cent.

“The economists that we’ve consulted suggest that that will secure the value of perpetual licences.”

Dr Napthine said the Government opted for the indexation over Prof Fels’s suggestion of possible compensation for existing licence holders.

“The Government did consider those matters but in consultation with the industry the indexation outcome was seen as a much better outcome for existing perpetual licence holders,” he said.

Mr Mulder said the real issue for the Government to come to grips with was licences.

“We believe the indexation, the $22,000 annual fee provides licence holders with a sense of security,” Mr Mulder said.

New Taxi Services Commission

Former chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Graeme Samuel, will chair a new Taxi Services Commission from July 1 this year.

Mr Samuel said the changes would see more competition introduced.

He said the quality of service and problems getting cabs at Melbourne Airport were key concerns.

Industry reaction

Victorian Taxi Association CEO David Samuel said he thought plate holders would be concerned but said it was too early to comment on the rejection of compensation for those people.

He said he was also concerned about the axing of mandatory affiliation because it raised concerns about passenger safety and service levels.

“Obviously when you book a cab you want one to turn up. The more access those companies have to cabs the easier it is to get a cab to those locations.

“Passenger safety can be affected if you are not affiliated because it can make it harder to track that journey … and provide in car safety equipment like safety and alarms.”

13CABS spokesman Simon Purssey said the industry needed “a bit of a shake up” and the company welcomed the Government’s response.

“What they have announced today we see that as a positive as a taxi provider,” Mr Purssey said.

He said he didn’t know if the company would lose business after the Government announced it would accept Prof Fels’s recommendation to axe mandatory affiliation.

Currently all cabs are affiliated with networks, including 13CABS and Silver Top.

“We as a company are really happy with the outcomes of today. We are going to go forward, work hand in hand with the commission to get a better service for the travelling public,” he said.

He also welcomed the move to give drivers a mandatory 55 per cent of the fare box and the introduction of the knowledge exam for drivers.

But he said the new fare structure needed “a little bit more work”.

‘Big test’ for Napthine Government

Prof Fels said he welcomed the Government accepting most of his 139 recommendations but said the changes to licensing costs would take the edge off the otherwise extensive reform.

He said the move would cause licence values to increase, which would in turn put pressure on fares and force customers to pay investors heavily.

“This compromise is a significant limitation of the proposed licensing reforms,” he said.

“These are the foundations of the many changes needed if the poor performance of and lack of competition in the industry are to be fixed. Every year as licence prices rise under the Government plan, new entry will become harder rather than gradually easier.”

Prof Fels hopes indexing will be reviewed in three years before any harm is done.

“Industry leaders are causing the slow death of the industry by their heavy lobbying for protection from competition,” he said.


May 27

Win for Cornerstone Barristers in License Fee case

-0430-POLITICS-Justice_-006Soho Sex Shops Strike Euro-Blow Against Westminster

R (Hemming & Others) v Westminster City Council, Court of Appeal, 24th May 2013

A group of sex shop owners has won a major victory in the Court of Appeal after a three year campaign to reduce its licence fees. The judgment of the Court of Appeal is set to cost the licensing authority, Westminster City Council, up to £2 million. The judgment also has a potentially far-reaching effect on other fields of regulation.

Since 2005, Westminster City Council charged sex shop owners in the West End of London £29,102 for their annual licence. In 2009, new European laws came into force in the United Kingdom, which prevented licensing authorities from charging fees going beyond the actual costs of the authorisation process.

The Provision of Services Regulations 2009 transposed into UK law the European Services Directive 206/123/EC and became law on 28th December 2009. Regulation 18(4) states that any charges provided for by a competent authority which applicants may incur under an authorisation scheme must be reasonable and proportionate to the cost of the procedures and formalities under the scheme and must not exceed the cost of those procedures and formalities.

A group of seven shop owners, represented by licensing barrister Philip Kolvin QC, claimed that at most 10% of the fee was justified – the remainder being spent by the Council on prosecuting unlicensed operators, which, it was argued, could not be charged back to the licensees. In May 2012 their claim was upheld in the High Court, but Westminster City Council appealed to the Court of Appeal, arguing that their charges were not affected by the new laws.

On 24th May 2013 three judges of the Court of Appeal, led by Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, dismissed the Council’s appeal. The effect of the judgment is that Westminster City Council will have to repay the great majority of fees charged since the beginning of 2010. Also, the Council has been ordered to pay interest at 10% above the Bank of England Base Rate and “indemnity costs” because it rejected an offer to compromise the claim on much better terms at the start of the proceedings.

Westminster City Council was also ordered to recalculate fees going back to 2004 because of deficiencies in its procedures for determining fees. The cost to the Council of the award, the interest and costs is likely to approach £2 million.

The judgment has important consequences for the funding of regulation in the United Kingdom because the new laws apply to all forms of authorisation to provide service activities. These include all forms of licensing (except for gambling and taxis which are excluded), street trading, subscriptions payable by professions including the legal professions in order to be able to practice and even the fees for planning applications.

Most importantly, the judgment will limit the scope of fees which licensing authorities will be able to charge under the Licensing Act 2003, following the right to determine fees introduced by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. The Home Office has delayed introducing Regulations implementing the legislation, it is thought in order to enable it to consider the Hemming judgment.



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