Birmingham Taxi licence fees reduced for 2016/17

Licence fees for Hackney Carriage and private hire drivers are to be significantly lowered – and in some cases almost halved – after councillors agreed them earlier today (17 February).

The new charges for drivers, vehicles and operators, which will not come into effect until 1 April 2016, were approved by the Licensing and Public Protection Committee.

The reductions – many of which are around 30 per cent – have been made possible due to Licensing’s surplus balance, accrued over previous years.

The committee agreed to use £189,000 of its surplus in order to lower the fees for 2016/17 – with a new three-year Hackney Carriage driver licence reduced from £370 to £250 (down 32 per cent) and new private hire vehicle licence down from £250 to £128 (49 per cent).

Licence fees for Hackney Carriage and private hire drivers are reviewed annually by the council and may increase or decrease depending on the cost of delivering the service in the previous year and the amount on Licensing balances.

The fees are set at a level to ensure that the service achieves full cost recovery.

Cllr Barbara Dring, Chair of the city council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee, said: “I am pleased to be able to announce the proposed fee reductions for Hackney Carriage and private hire drivers.

“The new fees are based on a commitment we gave last year to reinvest a third of the carry forward balance each year from the taxi licensing account into the cost of licences.

“Our licence fees in Birmingham are now lower than in many surrounding local authorities and comparable core cities.”

Following the committee’s approval, Birmingham City Council must advertise the proposed fees in a local newspaper for 28 days and consider any objections it receives during that period.

If there are no objections, the revised charges will take effect from 1 April 2016.

TfL Reminder ‘Assistance Dogs are Your Passengers Too’

Transport for London (TfL) has launched a campaign to highlight the rights of assistance dog owners when using private hire vehicles. By law private hire drivers must accept a passenger with an accredited assistance dog and at no extra cost on their fare.

The campaign, which is specifically targeting the private hire trade, seeks to educate drivers and operators on their obligations and to highlight to passengers with assistance dogs the rights they have, including that their dogs must be allowed in the passenger compartment with the owner.

The campaign comes as TfL is taking action to prosecute drivers that do not comply with the law. In the last six months, TfL has successfully prosecuted five drivers and three operators for refusing to take assistance dogs, has eight prosecutions pending and is currently investigating eight more cases.

More than 7,000 people are assisted by dogs trained and accredited by the seven charities that come under the Assistance Dogs UK umbrella organisation. While Guide Dogs is the best known provider of assistance dogs, there is a wide range of other charities helping users with a variety of conditions. These include Hearing Dogs for Deaf People, Medical Detection Dogs for people with complex health issues and Dogs for Good, which assist people with physical disabilities or children with autism.

Helen Chapman, TfL’s general manager of Taxi and Private Hire, said, “We are committed to making our services accessible to all our customers. This includes ensuring that our licensees are aware of their responsibilities regarding passengers who require the vital service that assistance dogs provide. The education campaign, along with the increased compliance activity we will be carrying out to support it, will make a real, positive difference to the way people can get around the Capital.”

The campaign has been welcomed by groups representing assistance dog owners as an important step in ensuring that transport services in London are universally accessible and welcoming.

Rob Harris, engagement manager for Guide Dogs London, said, “Being denied access to a taxi or private hire vehicle is not just illegal, but can knock the confidence of our guide dog owners and be deeply upsetting. With TfL’s fantastic campaign, we can now make sure that message gets out to every single licensed driver so that there is no excuse and that guide dog owners are entitled to the same freedom of movement as everyone else.”

In addition to the new campaign for drivers, TfL will be stepping up compliance activity on private hire drivers and operators reported to be refusing assistance dog owners or asking for an additional fare. A further campaign, to educate taxi and private hire drivers on their responsibilities to wheelchair users, will launch later this year.

Minicab driver abandons passenger with appendicitis

THE mother of a York student has demanded an apology after claiming her son was abandoned by a Minicab driver while suffering with severe abdominal pains which turned out to be appendicitis.

Luke Sandland, a languages student at University of York, phoned for a car in the early hours of last Sunday morning, after suffering from what was found to be an infected appendix which later had to be removed.

Luke, 21, said: “I couldn’t sleep all night, so at about 5am I decided to go to the hospital, but I didn’t think an ambulance was necessary.

“I told him I thought I was going to be sick. He started pulling up, but I was sick out of the window, although I didn’t get any on the car. He pulled up and I opened the door and was sick again.”

At that point, near the Sainsbury store in Foss Bank, the driver of the minicab asked Luke to get out of the car, and drove away. Luke then had to walk the rest of the way to hospital.

He was later told his appendix was infected and necrotic and he was kept in hospital until Monday when it was removed. Doctors said if he had not made it to the hospital, the consequences could have been fatal.

Adrian Smith, director of 659 ‘Taxis’, said he had discussed the incident with the driver in question, who maintained Luke had been sick in the vehicle.

Mr Smith said: “Each driver is self-employed and it’s their decision whether or not to carry people. “He’s made a judgement call because the lad has been sick in his car. If he’d said ‘I’ve got appendicitis’, or ‘My arm is cut open’, I’m sure he would have taken him to hospital, but it happens on a regular basis, people getting in the car and being sick, then being asked to leave the vehicle.”

Both Luke and his mother, Gill, contacted the firm to request an apology, but both said none had been forthcoming, although Mr Smith said an apology had been offered by a supervisor at the firm during the calls.

Gill said: “What annoys me is that they assumed he was just a drunk student, and they shouldn’t have.

“The fact he was doubled up in pain and he felt sick, and asked the ‘taxi’ driver to take him to A&E, didn’t that ring any bells?”

Luke said: “I asked them if a pregnant lady was in the back seat and her waters broke, would they stand by and kick her out?

“Their response was ‘you’re not a pregnant lady’. I think that’s outrageous.”


Cabbies win challenges against council officials

TAXI drivers have won two challenges against Sheffield Council over a parking ticket and a decision to ban an ‘immaculate’ old vehicle.

Talib Hussain, aged 42, of Carterknowle Road, appealed against a penalty notice, issued by post after he waited in a layby on High Street on July 30 while a customer visited a cash machine.

Meanwhile, Amran Rashid, aged 35, of Attercliffe-based Sheffield Cab Company, challenged the council’s policy not to license hackney carriages over 15 years old.

Mr Hussain said: “I’m really pleased the ticket has been overturned – it was the right result.

“I was not waiting long and the parking warden did not even approach me.”

Mr Rashid, who appealed at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court, said: “One of my taxis turned 15 in August but it’s in immaculate condition and I didn’t think the rule was fair.”

Hafeas Rehman, Sheffield Taxi Trade Association chairman, said: “The parking ticket case is one of 10 I have heard of recently where the council has issued them by stealth without challenging drivers. It is worrying.

“I also think the council should allow old vehicles if they are in good condition.”

The council said Mr Rashid’s appeal was an ‘exceptional case’ and its taxi age policy will remain for ‘safety, passenger comfort and environmental reasons’.

The council said, in Mr Hussain’s case, it ‘accepts the findings of the Traffic Penalty Tribunal and will not be taking this matter any further’.


Taxi driver Majid Rehman ‘used cab like bowling ball’ to run down rail workers

Majid Rehman argued with railway workers but 'wouldn't let it be,' the jury heard

An angry taxi driver used his black cab “like a bowling ball” to run down a group of men after a dispute with some of them, Cardiff Crown Court has heard.

Majid Rehman, 28, of Grangetown, Cardiff, argued with a group of railway workmen outside the city’s central station on 27 March, the jury was told.

The prosecution claim he drove through a red light to run down the six men, and two others also on the pavement.

Mr Rehman admits dangerous driving but denies 16 charges of causing injury.


The court heard Mr Rehman was seen driving “at speed” near the city’s Millennium Stadium minutes after a dispute with six railway workers who were all wearing high-visibility clothing

Two other men who were walking home after attending a health and safety course were also hit, the jury was told.

One of the men was trapped underneath the cab by the still-hot engine and suffered significant burns to his back, legs and arms.

It was a deliberate manoeuvre at some speed, knocking them
down like a bowling ball knocking over pins in an alley”

Clare Wilks Prosecuting

Clare Wilks, prosecuting, said: “One witness described it as like a bowling ball being aimed at a load of bowling pins.

“Six of the men were leaving the train station around 7pm after they had been working for Network Rail.

“They were wearing work wear – high-visiblity orange trousers and tops – and walking away from the train station.

“Along the way some of the group began to argue with Rehman. There was ill-feeling between them.

All eight men were taken to hospital for treatment after the incident in March

“Eventually they left the area. But it seems Rehman wouldn’t let it be.

“He left the taxi rank and drove after the group of six railway workers – according to one witness even going through a red light.”

Pavement mounted

The court heard two other men – Mark Underwood and Richard Partridge – were walking home and were in front of the railway workers.

Miss Wilks said: “As they walked away from the railway station, Rehman drove his taxi, and in a rage, mounted the pavement and collided with the group of eight men.

“It was a deliberate manoeuvre at some speed, knocking them down like a bowling ball knocking over pins in an alley.

“Some of the men were more fortunate than others.

“Mark Underwood was trapped under the taxi and suffered significant burns to his back, legs and arms as he was wedged under the hot engine.

I could feel I was in pain and it was very hot but I wasn’t sure what happened – the next thing I remember is waking up in hospital”

Mark Underwood Witness giving evidence

“It was a chaotic scene, emotions were running high, and Rehman was pulled out of his taxi and assaulted.”

The court heard Mr Underwood is still receiving treatment following extensive skin grafts to his back.

The taxi was travelling at 14mph when it mounted the curb, Miss Wilks told the court.

Mr Underwood told the court: “I can’t remember being hit – I didn’t see or hear anything at all.

“I was hit from behind and wedged under the fuel tank and the engine.

“I could feel I was in pain and it was very hot but I wasn’t sure what happened.

“The next thing I remember is waking up in hospital.”

Previous case

Mr Partridge told the court he was “confused” after coming to on the pavement and saw paramedics surrounding his friend.

He said: “I didn’t know Mark had been trapped under the taxi.”

He told the court that some of the railway workers pulled the defendant from the taxi.

“They hit him. I don’t know how many times or who hit him. The driver ended up sat against the wall at the back of the taxi when police arrived,” said Mr Partridge.

The group recognised the taxi driver, who had been a witness against one of them in a previous court case, and there were shouts of abuse from across the road

Nicholas Jones Defending

The court heard that seven of the injured men were released from hospital later that evening with injuries including fractures, soft tissue damage and severe bruising.

Nicholas Jones, defending, said his client had earlier been threatened and assaulted by some of the railway workers.

He said: “The group recognised the taxi driver, who had been a witness against one of them in a previous court case, and there were shouts of abuse from across the road.”

Mr Jones said the group also shouted the threat: “We will kill your brother.”

The court heard all six of the railway workers denied any earlier confrontation with Mr Rehman.

One of them, Meshack White, 19, said he still had glass in his head after being hit by the cab’s windscreen.

He said: “The taxi carried on forward after it hit us and it was going to run over my chest.

“Luckily my brother grabbed me and stopped the wheels running over me.”

Mr Rehman admits dangerous driving but denies five counts of assault occasioning actual bodily harm and four counts of attempting to unlawfully cause grievous bodily harm (GBH) with intent.

He also denies two counts of inflicting GBH, two counts of causing GBH with intent, one count of attempting to cause GBH with intent, one count of unlawful wounding and one count of wounding with intent.

The trial continues.


Rossendale Taxi Invasion – Beware The Lack Of The Knowledge

Sleuth got in a mini-cab the other day, and said, “Manchester Town Hall please.” He was already a bit puzzled because the private hire vehicle was red, and in Manchester they have to be white. “Could you give me directions?” the cabbie said. Pause. Silence. Sleuth then spent five minutes spluttering vigorous indignation at the driver.

“How would I know?” said the cabbie, “I’m from Rossendale.” Turns out that drivers with hackney licences in say, Rossendale, can be private hire drivers anywhere in the country. This loop hole means that cabbies who pay massively less for their licence and plates than Manchester drivers and don’t have to conform to vehicle colour and vehicle age or undergo any ‘knowledge’ test, can pick people like Sleuth up from their doors and not have a single clue where to go. Confidential has a full story about this next week.

As for Sleuth he had to give meticulous instructions at every junction to the Town Hall. As he got out of the car the driver said, “Excuse me. Just had a job radioed in. Where’s the University on Oxford Road?”

Taxi driver from Winterton fears he may lose his licence

A taxi driver fears he may lose his licence after illegally using a disabled parking badge that belonged to one of his customers for eight months.

John Leasing, of Roxby Road, Winterton, was charged with theft by finding after obtaining the badge from Zakira Hussain, who left the badge in Leasing’s taxi in October of last year.

Leasing, 42, pleaded guilty on the day of his trial at North Lincolnshire Magistrates’ Court to theft by finding.

Cathy Kioko-Gilligan, prosecuting, told the court that parking enforcement officers caught up with Leasing in June of this year, when they saw his car parked in a lay-by near Scunthorpe Market.

She said officers believed the badge to have been tampered with and inquiries then found it was reported stolen.

Leasing was then stopped by police a month later for being in possession of the badge and arrested, she told the court.

The prosecutor said Leasing told police that the badge had been left in his mini-bus by a customer and he had it on the dashboard as a reminder to himself to hand it back.

It was not revealed which firm he worked for.

Sunny Dhinsa, mitigating, told the court that Leasing was extremely remorseful and was a man of previous good character. Mr Dhinsa said: “He has learnt a valuable lesson and through his own foolish actions he may lose his livelihood, as he may lose his taxi licence.”

Leasing was given an 80-hour community order and told to pay £85 prosecution costs.


Planned taxi fares increase to be discussed by Crawley Borough Council

TAXI fares in Crawley look set to rise following a request from drivers.

Members of the Crawley Hackney Carriage Association have asked for the increase following a ballot of members.

A proposal to raise the starting tariff by 20p to £3.80, and the midnight to 6am tariff by 30p to £4.80, is set to be discussed by Crawley Borough Council.

The last increase in Hackney carriage fares took place in January.

Taxi drivers the News spoke to said prices had to rise, or drivers would no longer be able to make a living.

Gerrard Lavery, 64, said: “I have been driving for 15 years and things have never been tougher.

“There is too much competition out here, too many drivers for too few passengers.

“It doesn’t bother me too much as I’m set to retire, but for younger drivers it’s going to be a real problem.”

One Hackney carriage driver working the rank outside Crawley station on Tuesday said the increase did not go far enough.

The driver – who said he did not wish to give his name because he dealt with the council regularly – added: “Business is quiet, and a rise of 20p is nothing when you think about it.

“The cost of petrol is going up. The cost of living generally is going up. And people are tipping less than they used to, and less often.

“We can get one job every hour-and-a-half here. And we’re competing with too many private hire and minicab drivers, who are keeping their prices down because it’s a competitive market.

“In the time I have been driving, things have gone downhill. Prices must rise.”

Crawley Borough Council’s licensing committee will discuss the issue at its meeting on Monday.


Private hire driver fined £2,000 for illegal pick-up

A private hire driver who illegally picked up a customer in the town centre has been ordered to pay more than £2,000 after appearing in court.

Mohammed Arif, of Northumberland Avenue, denied plying for trade in Friar Street on December 8, 2011, but was found guilty after a trial at Newbury Magistrates Court on Tuesday, October 30.

The court heard Arif, 61, had been caught during an undercover operation by Reading Borough Council with Thames Valley Police officers acting as customers.

Magistrates fined Arif £110 and ordered him to pay costs of £2,016.60.

Councillor Paul Gittings, Reading’s lead member for environment, said he was pleased with the outcome. “Most people who flag down a private hire vehicle in the street do not understand it is illegal and they are uninsured for the journey,” he said.


Row over taxi licensing guidelines for former sex offenders

CONVICTED sex offenders can apply for a licence to drive taxis in South Cheshire provided they have not committed a crime for more than 10 years.

The news has outraged a Crewe woman who was the victim of sexual assault as a child.

And it has infuriated Sandbach campaigner Janette Rathbone who has fought for years to have sex offenders removed from Linden Bank Bail Hostel because it is opposite a children’s park.

The Crewe woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said: “It is unbelievable that anyone who has committed a sex offence can even be considered for a licence as a taxi driver. What about the safety of children or women who may be in the car alone with them in the future?

“People talk about these offenders having served their time and being given a second chance but what about the people they have assaulted? Having gone through it, I know it lives with you forever. Even letting them apply for a licence like this is an insult to all victims of sexual offences.”

Mrs Rathbone said: “It’s disgraceful. We should make sure people who have committed sex offences are not employed anywhere near children or women.”

Cheshire East Council, which is responsible for taxi licensing, discussed the matter at a committee meeting on Monday.

A report to the licensing committee on guidelines relating to the relevance of convictions for Hackney carriage and private hire drivers stated ‘applicants with conviction for indecent exposure, indecent assault, importuning or any offence of a sexual nature will be refused a licence until a period of five years free from conviction has elapsed’.

If that person was on the sex offenders register, the report states, the application would be considered three years after removal from the register.

An applicant with more than one sexual offence will normally be refused and if he/she committed a sexual offence while ‘acting as a licensed driver’ no application would be considered for at least 10 years.

The report also states that as a general guide committee members should also consider whether they would allow anyone they care about – children, mother etc – ‘to get into a vehicle with this person (applicant) alone’.

Cheshire East’s licensing committee voted on Monday to increase the time period applicants must be free of offending – so the three year free of offending is now five years, the five year category is now 10 and the 10 year has been extended to 20.

A spokesman for Cheshire East Council told the Chronicle: “Ensuring that people can use taxis safely and with confidence is of paramount importance to Cheshire East Council – and we will NOT act in any way to put people’s safety and well-being at risk.

“When it comes to taxi driver licences, each application must and will be considered on its merits. If an offence or conviction is deemed to be ‘serious’ and if granting a licence would be detrimental to the protection of the public the council will NOT grant a licence.”

He added when considering applications, the committee may take into account any information regarding an applicant’s sexual behaviour or activity and they may be refused a licence even if it did not amount to criminal offence.

“Cheshire East will pursue a robust approach and will take a firm line regarding any sexual offences or offences involving violence,” said the spokesman.

“The rules about licensing taxi drivers follow national guidelines, legislation and best practice. We would emphasise that the policy sets out the minimum requirements before an application will be considered.

“This does not mean that an applicant will automatically be suitable once the five-20 years (or other applicable periods) have elapsed. It merely confirms that their application will be considered and still refused if the council is not satisfied that they are fit and proper to hold a licence.”