Union plans legal action over council wheelchair taxi dispute

A taxi drivers’ union is planning to take legal action against Dundee City Council in a row over wheelchair accessible vehicles.

GMB Scotland has made the decision amid a three-year dispute with the council.

The current system — which the GMB describes as a “two-tier workforce” — requires some drivers to buy wheelchair accessible vehicles, which start at £19,000, whereas other drivers are allowed to buy a vehicle from as little as £1,000.

GMB officer Drew Duffy said: “Dundee City Council seem to be happy with this two-tier system — all we want is a level playing for all taxi drivers.

“We have drivers who were operational prior to changes in 2003, who could purchase any vehicle. Then after Dundee City Council changed their policy on new taxi operators, drivers had to purchase wheelchair accessible vehicles.

“The problem is some of these drivers, prior to the changes in 2003, have now retired but their badges are still active.

“Their vehicles are operating in the city driven by other drivers, so they don’t have to adhere to the changes in the law. I believe this represents around 40% of the taxi drivers in Dundee.”

Licensing committee chairman Stewart Hunter said he understood the frustrations of the taxi drivers but insisted the committee has to decide what is best for the public.

He said: “We have a policy at the moment where the fleet is mixed. I understand their frustrations because it is costing some drivers more than others to buy vehicles.

“But our focus, first and foremost, is what is best for the Dundee public and they want a mixed fleet. We had a consultation around four years ago with disability groups, which the taxi liaison group were present at. We tested out a series of different vehicles and it was apparent that not all passengers were able to access a disabled vehicle which is why we decided to operate a mixed fleet.”

But Drew said: “I would argue that Edinburgh and Glasgow already operate a service where all taxis are wheelchair accessible so I can’t understand why we can’t. We have a date set in November for the case but I hope we can reach a decision prior to this. All we ask is the council to review the system currently in place.”

source: https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/

Taxi wars hot up in York as cabbies and Uber clash

  • Hackney drivers demand level playing field
  • York council blames Government changes and less rigorous councils
  • Uber says its drivers are acting perfectly legally

TAXI operators have raised further concerns about drivers from outside the city operating in York.

They claim operators are travelling from Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield and elsewhere to pick up fares, mainly on weekends, in part due to a lack of enforcement but also due to a new company starting up in York.

Keith Hatfield, director of York Station Taxis, met the council last week and said changes to council policy meant it was easier for other companies to work in the city.

He said: “We’re not afraid of York competition that’s what we’re after, that’s fine. But as long as it’s a level playing field, that’s all we’re asking for.

“They can join Uber from York, we don’t have a problem with that, but these people haven’t gone through the local knowledge test, which takes quite a while. I know people who’ve been waiting to get through that for nine months, it’s a tough test, but makes you a better driver.”

Mr Hatfield said some Uber drivers had refused to move from Hackney ranks while waiting for a pickup, and “we have had to put rank marshals to move them”.

Dave McTernan, from Getaway Cars in York, said “dozens of out of town cars are patrolling the streets of York and working night and day”, and called it “a bad situation”.

He said: “It’s not being dramatic to say it’s out of control.

“It’s a free for all in York at the moment. We’re controlled by strict CYC regulations for everything, but getting all these cowboys coming into town and doing things illegally so it’s very aggravating.

“With Uber, the reason they are putting so much pressure on is because they know they’ve to have cars here and are paying drivers £14 an hour to come across here without bookings.”

A spokeswoman for Uber said there had been “interest from dozens of local drivers”, and all their drivers “must hold a valid private hire licence from their local city council and must maintain valid insurance and vehicle maintenance”, which also included going through an enhanced background check (DBS).

She said: “Regulations governing private hire are quite clear. Drivers licensed for private hires can pick up and drop off anywhere in England and Wales so long as their driving licence and vehicle licence match the operator licence that processes that booking.

“Uber holds operator’s licences in York, Leeds, Bradford, Wakefield among others and drivers across the UK can use the Uber app to collect fares in compliance with their local licence.”

Matt Boxall, acting head of public protection at City of York Council, said the authority’s standards for drivers was high, but “other local authorities apply their own level of checks prior to licensing drivers and their vehicles, and now government laws have made it easier for licensed drivers to work in different towns”.

The council’s enforcement team currently includes 12 officers to cover “taxi licensing, environmental health and trading standards”, and two more officers were due to be appointed this week.

Mr Boxall urged anyone with concerns about drivers or vehicles to phone 01904 551525 or email public.protection@york.gov.uk

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

Updated rules on offenders applying for taxi licences in Barrow in wake of Rotherham child abuse scandal

NEW guidelines have been approved spelling out when former offenders can become taxi drivers in Barrow.

A policy review for licensing hackney carriages and private cars has been completed and given the green light.

According to the policy’s wording, offenders convicted of murder, manslaughter, rape, and other serious crimes will have their application refused “unless there are exceptional circumstances”.

The Barrow Council’s Executive Committee said its policy on taxi licensing had to be updated following the child abuse scandal in Rotherham, and the role taxi drivers played.

Former offenders applying for licences will have to wait a period of time from when they were first convicted, or from their release if they were sent to prison.

People convicted of indecent exposure or soliciting would have to wait between five and 10 years before their application would be considered.

Arsonists, violent offenders and those convicted of racially aggravated crimes would also have to wait five years.

Committee chairman Councillor Dave Pidduck said: “As a council we have to make sure that all our policies are up to date.

“These are changes in that policy to reflect the modern situation.”

Councillor Brendan Sweeney and Cllr Pidduck both commented on the difficult task it was to draw a line in the sand for offences.

Cllr Sweeney said: “I think the licensing committee spend a lot of time looking at the individual cases. You have to draw the line between a mistake that someone made in the past or if there is no risk.

“Some one has to be able to make a living.”

Cllr Pidduck spoke of how taxi drivers should not be exempt from safeguarding regulations.

He said: “Safeguarding is so important now. They are in a position of trust.”

The new policy will also introduce changes to make sure taxi drivers are fit to drive.

New applicants will have to provide a medical certificate showing they are fit. Drivers over the age of 55 will be required to prove they are fit to drive every three years.

Drivers will also be required to complete a one-off knowledge test on the area, their understanding of the highway code and numeracy.

Some taxi drivers have supported the changes however there has been criticism these changes, and the charges they incur will push drivers out of the business.

In a public consultation, an anonymous taxi driver wrote: “I feel that I don’t see why we should have to pay to prove that I can do my job.”
Drivers will also have to require a DVSA driving assessment, however, this is no longer provided in Barrow – the nearest assessment centre is in Lancaster.

As a solution, Cllr Sweeney has called for an enterprising local business to start providing this service, he said: “There is a clear commercial opportunity for a local firm to take that up.”

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

Rotherham Council regains powers to grant taxi licences after ban in wake of child sex scandal

Licensing powers are the latest to be handed back to the council after a period of reform following damning reports which found that the local authority and South Yorkshire Police had turned a blind eye to men of predominantly Pakistani heritage abusing 1,400 vulnerable girls over a 16-year period.

The council’s licensing powers cover driving and operations licences for hackney carriage and private hire taxis, as well as alcohol licences.

Professor Alexis Jay’s report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, published in 2014, found that some taxi drivers had played a ‘prominent role’ in the offending.

A follow up inquiry, by Louise Casey, said there was a ‘well-publicised link between taxis and child sexual exploitation in Rotherham that has cast a long shadow over the vast majority of law-abiding drivers’.

In a ministerial statement yesterday, Local Government Minister, Marcus Jones, said: “This marks significant progress, as licensing was one of the council’s services implicated by the Casey report as contributing to child sexual exploitation in Rotherham.

“I am now satisfied that the council could exercise the licensing function in compliance with its best value duty and I am consulting on revising directions accordingly.

“The most recent reports by commissioners appointed to oversee services in Rotherham had found that licensing services were now ready to return to council control, Mr Jones said.

He added: “The collective evidence demonstrates that the key objectives of the intervention, in relation to licensing, have been delivered.

“It is my assessment that the weaknesses in licensing identified in the Casey report have been addressed and the service is now functioning effectively.

“Officers and members have recognised the need for and implemented fundamental cultural change, and advisory board members, in particular the chair, are more capable and confident in their role.

“Commissioners will continue to have oversight of the service, Mr Jones added. Education, housing and planning functions were returned to the council in February.

Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/

‘Despicable’ taxi driver banned from driving after blaming wife for his traffic offence

A ‘despicable’ taxi driver has been banned from driving for 18 months after attempting to pervert the course of justice by blaming his wife for his own traffic offence.

Ibrar Suleman’s Mercedes taxi was seen driving through a red light in Sheffield in February.

Suleman eventually responded to letters and emails about the incident to claim that his wife had been the driver at the time – but an investigation found he had been working that day and had accepted a job around 40 minutes before the incident.

Both Suleman and his wife were arrested, with the taxi driver eventually pleading guilty to attempting to pervert the course of justice. Suleman, aged 40 and of Infirmary Road, Chesterfield, was sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for 12 months, ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and disqualified from driving for 18 months.Judge

Recorder Anthony Kelbrick told the defendant:

“It is despicable that a man should drag his wife into his own offending, blame her, have her arrested, taken to the police station and interviewed for a criminal offence.

“You should be utterly and thoroughly ashamed of yourself.

“You should have better respect for your wife.”

Read more at: http://www.thestar.co.uk/

Fined: Old Trafford football fan taken for a ride by overcharging taxi driver

The football fan was travelling back to Manchester Airport after the game at Old Trafford

A TAXI driver has been ordered to fork out almost £600 after duping a football fan into paying double fare from Old Trafford to Manchester Airport – which he had claimed was the passenger’s idea.

Hackney carriage driver Farzin Kheshvari has been convicted of overcharging a customer he picked up earlier this year.

The victim, a football fan, had travelled with his son to watch Manchester United versus Arsenal back in February and hailed a cab to head back to Manchester Airport after the match.

Kheshvari refused to put the fare on his meter but instead insisted on a fixed fee of £35 upfront for the journey. If 8.3 mile journey had been on the meter, it would have cost approximately £19.

The passenger felt he had been taken advantage of and lodged a complaint with Trafford Council. Kheshvari initially refutes the claims, maintaining that it was the passenger who had insisted on paying £35 for the journey.

Kheshvari pleaded guilty at Manchester and Salford Magistrates on October 7. He was fined £80 for failing to engage the taxi meter, £40 for charging more than the metered fare, ordered to pay costs of £453 and a victim surcharge of £20.

Cllr John Reilly, executive member for economic growth, environment and infrastructure, said: “This conviction reinforces the Council’s commitment to protect members of the public. The general public should be able to trust taxi drivers to comply with the rules and regulations and not to take advantage of them.

“The council has adopted byelaws that compel hackney carriage drivers to put fares on the meter when the destination is within the Trafford area or within four miles of the Trafford boundary, as is the case with the airport.

“The council investigates all complaints against licensed drivers, whether they are private hire or hackney carriage drivers, and will continue to enforce against those abusing their position of trust.”

Kheshvari will now be referred to the council’s licensing sub-committee and may face further sanction.

Anyone wishing to lodge a complaint against a Trafford licensed vehicle are asked to email the licensing team on licensing@trafford.gov.uk.

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

Taxi driver Mubashir Butt molested drunken female passenger in back of cab

Judge tells him he had breached trust but gave him a suspended jail term

A taxi driver who sexually molested a drunken passenger in the back of his car has been given a suspended jail sentence.

Leeds Crown Court heard Mubashir Butt collected the woman from Brighouse and was driving her to Kirkburton in Huddersfield on the evening of October 9 last year when an issue arose about paying the fare.

He told her: “I don’t think you have enough money to pay for this taxi – you can pay in different ways.”

Christopher Smith, prosecuting, told the court yesterday the woman told him that suggestion was not acceptable and asked him just to drive her home.

While driving along Penistone Road he did not take the turn she expected towards where she lived but continued on to a petrol station.

CCTV showed him parking up close to the exit, getting out of the driver’s seat and getting in the back of the taxi.

The headlights illuminated suggesting he had locked the car once he was inside. His victim tried to get out but discovered she could not. She was wearing a tight low cut dress and he put his arm around her and tried to kiss her.

Mr Smith said she pulled away from him and he then put both hands on her breasts and touched her skin before stroking her right leg while leaning in towards her.

His passenger screamed and when she again pushed him away he got out of the back of the taxi and then drove her home. She arrived in a hysterical state and ran in barefoot carrying her shoes in her hand.

When the attack was reported to the police and Butt was arrested he claimed he had only got into the back of the car to help her extract money from her purse. He said they had gone to the petrol station so should get cash from the machine for the fare.

John Boumphrey, representing Butt, said he had found it hard to talk about what he had done but had expressed feelings of guilt and shame.

He was the only cash earner supporting his family and also sent money back to family in Pakistan so if he was jailed it would cause hardship to them. The probation service had also indicated they felt they could work with him.

Butt, 35 of Tate Naylor Street, Dewsbury, admitted sexual assault and was given a 12 month prison sentence suspended for 18 months with 15 days rehabilitation activity requirement and 100 hours unpaid work. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender for 10 years.

Judge Mushtaq Khokhar said his passenger was vulnerable because she was drunk, adding: “You as a taxi driver acted in breach of trust in carrying out this sexual assault. She expected to be conveyed to her home address.”

He said Butt had no reason to get into the back of the car with her in breach of his training but had clearly decided an opportunity had arisen because of her condition.

However, he had not pursued his actions and had never been in trouble before for such behaviour.

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

Cambridgeshire taxi firms slam council delays in granting licenses

Taxi firms claim they are missing out on dozens of potential jobs a day – as the council delays applications by up to two months.

South Cambs Taxis Ltd (SCT), based in Sawston, says that delays in setting up appointments with South Cambridgeshire District Council are ‘damaging’ small businesses.

Prospective drivers have been forced to look elsewhere for employment, unable to wait more than eight weeks to find a job.
The council claims that the delays are because of an ‘increase in applications’.

“Turning away jobs”

Neil Payne, managing director of SCT, said: “We applied for a driver today to go and have put in his paperwork at South Cambs council, but couldn’t get an appointment until mid November.

“The appointment system seems to have got worse in the last month and I’ve struggled for a few years trying to find good drivers. I’m having to turn away minimum 20 jobs a day.

“Cambridge and the surrounding areas are growing so much. There’s a need for drivers. But small businesses like myself are struggling.”

To become a taxi driver first requires a DSA driving test, for which an appointment can take up to six weeks.

After they pass their test, drivers have to submit their application forms, as well as take a medical which is signed and stamped by a doctor. This now takes up to eight weeks.

Drivers then have to apply for a DBS check, which takes up to six weeks, before they can fully register to become drivers for taxi companies.

“Any drivers that are coming along now to support us over the Christmas period are not going to get a license before January,” said Mr Payne.

“It’s just red tape all the way. I’m just turning more work away than I can take because I haven’t got drivers.

“Yes they’ve got to do their checks, yes they’ve got to be correct and the drivers have to have clean records, but all the government bodies are slowing it all down.”

Interested drivers delayed

Cambridge City Taxis (CCT) is another company struggling to find drivers.

The service currently has 49 drivers but recognise that they need more to respond to the growing need in Cambridge.

David Wratten, managing director of CCT, said: “It just seems there must be another way to get round this and to get the paperwork in earlier.

“It needs to change. It’s got more difficult. I’ve had three people who’ve been interested in coming to work but they’ve been delayed in trying to get the process finished.”

“Checks are important”

A South Cambridgeshire District Council spokesman said: “An increase in the number of taxi licence applications we have received recently has meant that it has been taking us longer than we would have liked to sit down with applicants.

“We are sorry for the delays during this time but are pleased to be able to confirm that we have worked through most of the backlog and nearly all new applicants are now being sat down with within two weeks.

“New online systems we have put in place for DBS checks, formally known as CRB checks, as well as checks we need to carry out with the DVLA, have also seen the time it takes to process the applications fall by more than half.

“Clearly the checks are very important to make sure only suitable drivers are licensed.”

Read more at http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/

South Tyneside Council bosses asked to close taxi licence loopholes after incidents

Council bosses in South Tyneside are being asked to close loopholes in taxi licensing laws.

They will be told next week that a man who drove his car through a barrier to confront council staff after they twice refused to give him a taxi licence now has permission to drive minibuses.

David Cramond Another driver who had his licence taxi revoked after he used booking records to inappropriately contact two women is allowed to drive larger vehicles for the same firm.

Both cases are evidence of a discrepancy in licensing laws, a report claims. In a report to South Tyneside Council’s licensing committee, the authority’s economic regeneration director David Cramond said the system for issuing licences to taxi drivers – hackney carriages of up to eight-seats – is different to that for drivers of nine-to-16-seat vehicles known as Public Carriage Vehicles (PCVs).

He said to get a hackney carriage licence, drivers must produce an up to date criminal records check and can be refused a licence if they have convictions or cautions which the authority believe “renders the driver a risk to the public”.

But PCV drivers, Mr Cramond says are subject to such checks.

He said: “The applicant is asked to sign a self-declaration and, if they declare that they have no previous convictions, a licence will be granted with no further checks.” His report cited a driver who got a PCV licence and applied to drive school children despite a North East council revoking his taxi licence in 2014 after he was convicted of harassment and was accused of harassing and having inappropriate conduct with a child.

Mr Cramond said: “It is important to point out that the majority of PCV drivers are likely to fit into the category of ‘fit and proper’. “This report is intended to highlight concerns surrounding an opportunity available to unscrupulous persons wishing to exploit an opportunity which enables them to work in close proximity to the general public some of who will be vulnerable.”

Mr Cramond added: “The North East strategic licensing group which represents the 12 licensing authorities in the North East believes that this is an outdated view which no longer reflects reality.

“Larger minibuses, driven by PCV drivers, are now regularly hired out by taxi companies and are often used to transport groups, or individuals, in exactly the same way as a taxi. “Even when transporting a group of passengers, it would be common for a lone individual to be picked up first or dropped off last.

“It is essential that the public receive the same level of protection regardless of whether they are using an eight-seater taxi or a nine or more seat minibus.

”The council’s licensing committee will discuss the report at their meeting next Friday.

Read more at: http://www.shieldsgazette.com/

Black taxi drivers march in protest over minicab medical tests

Around 100 cab drivers marched in protest today at TfL’s lack of medical regulation of mini cab drivers.

Black cab drivers staged a demonstration in Southwark after learning of allegations minicab drivers are allegedly using loopholes to pass medicals.

An independent investigation revealed mini cab drivers were able to pay certain doctors for a medical pass.

London Drivers Club chairman Grant Davis said that TfL was putting public safety at risk. He said: “today is about raising the profile of what’s going on, it’s not cab drivers moaning about Uber.

“TfL has got a duty to protect the public and they’re not doing that.”

Mr Davis added that he had spoken to TfL after the investigation who had told him the problem could take three years to fix.

He added: “They told us it’s a GMC problem.

“They said the only way around it was to wait for three years until the driver’s need to have their medicals again. “It’s not good enough.”

Cab drivers with placards lined both sides of the street to demonstrate over what they thought to be a lack of regulation.

Black cab driver Kevin O’Connor called on TfL to launch a public enquiry. He said: “It’s the world of health and safety so how are they getting away with it.”

Black cab drivers must take a medical exam at their registered GP every three years, costing £150 a time.

Dennis Saunders, who has been a London cab driver for more than 20 years, said: “we don’t go into this job thinking we’ll be millionaires.

“All we want to do is provide an honest living for our families.

“Soon Uber will have full control of the market, then they won’t be cheap.

“We’re the heart and soul of the city and we’re the eyes and ears.”

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