Arrangements have been made for a meeting of the No. 2 Region, and this will take place on Tuesday 1st March 2011. The venue for the meeting is The Plough Inn, Mountsett, Dipton, Burnopfield, County Durham NE16 6BA.
The Plough Inn is situated beside the Mountsett Crematorium, which is on the A692 (Front Street) between Burnopfield and Dipton. Enclosed please find the relevant page from the Tyne & Wear A-Z book.
Ample free parking is available at the premises.
Delegates are requested to assemble from 10.30 a.m. onwards, to enable the meeting to commence at 11.00 a.m. prompt. A buffet lunch has been organised by Derwentside Taxi Association and will be served at approximately 12.30 p.m.
Looking forward to a good attendance from your Association at Derwentside,
THREE Coventry councillors are facing an investigation into allegations they broke rules after charging firms for advice on how to gain council licences.
The Telegraph has learned city council lawyers are quizzing Conservative councillors Gary Ridley, Andrew Williams and David Smith about their licensing consultancy firm ProLicensing.
A disciplinary committee could now launch a full investigation.
Two of them – Coun Smith and Coun Williams – sit on the council’s licensing committee, which decides on applications for licences from firms including shops, pubs and clubs, and taxi firms.
Coventry-based ProLicensing charges firms fees of at least £350 for advice on applying to councils for licences.
Coun Williams (Bablake) and Coun Ridley (Sherbourne) have now stood down as directors at the company, for which they had shareholdings.
All three face allegations they breached the council’s code of conduct, which is partly designed to prevent a “conflict of interest”, where councillors might use their position for personal gain.
Councillors are not automatically banned from setting up, or being involved in, a business offering advice on council matters.
But strict rules require councillors to declare their business interests in meetings if it could be seen to influence their deliberations or voting.
Minutes of several council and committee meetings, seen by the Telegraph, show no record of them declaring an interest when licensing policy or laws were discussed.
It is also alleged that running a licensing business while sitting on the licensing committee would be seen by the public as inappropriate, thereby “bringing the council into disrepute”.
The code of conduct states: “You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute.”
If the complaint is upheld, they could face anything from a minor rebuke through a formal censure, to being suspended as councillors.
ProLicensing is run by Coun Smith (Sherbourne), who has been deselected as the Tory candidate in May’s elections and is standing down as a councillor. He has also chaired several meetings of a licensing sub-committee.
There is no evidence ProLicensing’s clients included firms which were applying for licences from Coventry City Council.
The company’s website states it is “the fastest growing Licensing Consultancy in Birmingham, Coventry and Warwickshire.”
It continues: “Specialising in Alcohol and Entertainment licensing, we are a one stop shop for all your licensing needs.
“Our experienced consultants are able to advise and assist you with all aspects of your licensing requirements including applications, hearings, reviews and appeals for premises, personal and taxi licences.”
Castle Point Borough Council double charged licensed taxi drivers for Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks.
Castle Point Borough Council double charged licensed taxi drivers for Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) checks, finds Local Government Ombudsman, Anne Seex. In her report, issued today (15 February 2011) she says: “This complaint also raises the issue of injustice to every licensed taxi driver who has paid a CRB fee and a licence fee since 1 January 2004, who is likely to have been overcharged.”
‘Mr Hunter’ (not his real name for legal reasons) is a licensed taxi driver. He complained to the Ombudsman because he thought he had been overcharged for his licence since 2004, in particular that he had been charged twice for the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check.
In June 2003 the Council decided to charge licensed taxi drivers a separate fee for the CRB check, which had previously been included in the taxi licence fee. In July 2003 the drivers were notified that they would have to pay one fee for their licence and a separate fee for the CRB check.
In December 2003 the Council’s Licensing Committee agreed a percentage increase for licence fares. But the figure on which the percentage increase was based included an amount for the CRB fee which, since July 2003, had been charged separately. And all percentage increases agreed since December 2003 have been based on this baseline figure which wrongly included a CRB fee. This means that since 1 January 2004, when the increase came into account, all licensed drivers who have paid for a CRB check and a licence have been overcharged.
The Ombudsman finds that the Council was at fault for agreeing a fare increase that included an element for a CRB check which the Council had already decided to make a separate charge for. The Council says this was an informed decision to cover the administrative costs of processing the CRB checks; but there is no evidence that this was considered by the Licensing Committee.
The Ombudsman concludes that Mr Hunter, and other taxi drivers who have paid a licence fee since 1 January 2004, have been overcharged.
She recommends that the Council:
reimburses Mr Hunter with the amount by which he has been overcharged, and
takes measures to remedy the injustice caused to other taxi drivers who have paid a licence fee and CRB fee since 1 January 2004.
Angry taxi drivers say passengers will be the ones to suffer after the Brighton Station cab rank was closed.
Southern, which manages the station, has started a £140,000 renovation project which includes repainting the canopy at the front of the building.
Cabbies, who pay £410 a year to use the rank, have been moved to a temporary spot at the back of the station.
However they have only been given eight spaces and say disabled and elderly passengers will find it difficult to walk to the new rank.
Yesterday cabbies angrily remonstrated with Southern officials after they were moved from the existing taxi waiting area, which was then coned off.
Taxis had started to queue at the marked bays near the drop-off point but were told to move to a reserved area further from the station.
A Southern spokesman said: “Although the bays are marked for taxis as well as for buses, the cones have been placed for the duration of the work to reserve space for rail replacement bus services only.
“This will ensure that taxis will be in the same place throughout the work and be less confusing for our passengers.”
Taxi drivers fear they will be left severely out of pocket by the time the work is due to finish in April.
One cab driver said he would normally have made £50 in fares by 1pm but had only picked up one person yesterday.
Passengers and drivers claim the new rank has not been signposted properly and they have to walk too far to pick up a cab.
The Southern spokesman added: “We are aware that passengers have further to walk to get a taxi, but passengers who have difficulty with walking or heavy luggage can ask a member of staff for assistance.”
Taxi drivers in Cambridge will have a smart dress code from April 1 – and have been told not to wear garish shirts or jeans.
New rules on ‘what not to wear’ will come into force on April Fools’ Day with 167 Hackney cab drivers in the city told to ditch scruffy clothes and get smart.
The fashion edict issued by Cambridge City Licensed Taxis covers drivers who are allowed to pick up fares at the city’s train station.
Members of the group’s committee have told taxi drivers to wear smart trousers – and that jeans are not acceptable.
They are allowed to sport any kind of smart shirt with a collar except paisley shirts or multi-coloured Hawaiian shirts.
But Karl Stamper, a former member of the association’s committee, who is often seen sporting loud shirts, says the edict is misguided.
He said: “I think telling us what to wear is a bit much. It should be more focused on the drivers who are smelly and scruffy.
“It doesn’t really matter what they’re wearing as long as they are clean and look smart.
“The shirts I wear may not be to everyone’s taste and I have no problem wearing something different.”
Glenn Hall, chairman of the association, said: “We are asking drivers to enhance their appearance by not wearing jeans but to wear smart trousers and shirts with a collar and not polo-neck shirts or T-shirts.
“They can wear any colour shirt they like but not Hawaiian shirts or shirts with the English, Welsh or Scottish flags.”
He added: “We have had a lot of opposition to it but some drivers do look a bit scruffy and we hope they will smarten up, which will create a good image of Cambridge for people living here and visitors.
“We’ll have to wait and see how many comply.
“We chose April Fools’ Day just because it is the start of the financial year.”
PERSISTANT shoddy parking has lost a cabbie his livelihood after Torbay Council ran out of patience.
Taxi-driver Ryan Ford was left in shock after councillors took the unprecedented action of revoking his licence after he ignored a series of warnings.
Mr Ford was called to a meeting of the council’s licensing sub-committee after complaints about his dangerous parking.
Committee members were told that there had been complaints from police and members of the public about taxis parking inappropriately.
It was said that taxi-drivers, including Mr Ford, were sent letters warning them about obstructing traffic, and he later had his licence suspended for seven days.
Members also heard that Mr Ford, who lives in Torquay, had sworn at a parking enforcement officer who was photographing his car when it was badly parked at a rank.
It was said that Mr Ford had been photographed on a number of occasions parking poorly at taxi ranks.
On one occasion, while parked at the roundabout rank at the bottom of Torquay’s Union Street, he was said to have left the back end of his black Vauxhall hanging out on the road for six minutes.
Mr Ford, 29, told the committee: “After receiving the letter I took it upon myself to adhere to the regulations. I certainly didn’t swear at the parking enforcement officer.
“The pictures don’t prove that I’m stationary. They don’t tell the whole story, and there’s no video footage to support the claims.
“I feel that there’s a personal vendetta against me. I’m being harshly dealt with. In terms of the six-minute incident, I agree that I could have driven around the block and come back. I can’t afford to be suspended.”
Councillors debated the matter for half an hour before returning to tell Mr Ford he had lost his hackney licence.
Mr Ford, who has been driving a taxi for five years, was visibly stunned after the meeting.
He told the Herald Express: “I was in total shock when they announced that my licence was being revoked.
“I don’t understand what’s gone on. I don’t see how it can happen. Their recommendation was a 28-day suspension.
“I was going to appeal against the suspension, and I will certainly appeal against this ban. The Taxi Association said they’ve never heard of this happening before.
“It seems I should be able to work until my appeal has been dealt with, but the council are saying I can’t.
“I enjoy my job and I’ve got nothing else lined up. I’ll have to start looking for another job, but in the current climate there’s nothing around.”
A plan for Reading Borough Council to generate more money has caused concern among Reading taxi drivers.
The proposals put together by financial consultant Deloitte is intended to raise £1 million in revenue for the council in the coming year.
There are a series of proposals including organising commercial waste collection like a business, hanging advertising banners on lampposts and selling off council property.
But a plan to recover the full cost of running the service which licenses taxis by charging the drivers more and by issuing more licences has worried the cabbies.
The report to the cabinet suggested the £260 annual charge to taxi drivers could go up by 13 per cent a year until 2014 to recover the actual cost of the licensing service.
It also said the Department of Transport did not consider imposing restrictions on the number of licences issued as “best practice”, acknowledging that while there was a demand from would-be taxi drivers for more licences there was “not any unmet demand from a passenger perspective”.
Asif Rashid, who chairs Reading Taxi Drivers’ Association, spoke to the cabinet last Monday of the “harsh economic climate”.
He insisted now was not the time to issue more Hackney carriage licences saying the ranks were already overcrowded.
He said the taxi drivers had paid £10,000 for a council survey on the subject a year ago and were not due to be surveyed again until 2012.
Issuing more Hackney carriage licences, he added, would lead to “more pollution and more congestion”.
Deputy leader of the council Councillor Kirsten Bayes said: “We understand the very difficult situation that Hackney carriage drivers find themselves in because of fuel costs and the economic situation that is happening.
She added: “The council has a duty to cover its costs in this matter.”
But she reassured the cabbies present the decision would not be made by the cabinet but would be passed for consideration to the licensing committee and the Hackney carriage drivers would be kept fully informed.
Cllr Tony Page criticised the Deloitte report for its emphasis on “charging the council tax payers more” and “flogging off the council assets”.
He said he hoped to see something “more imaginative”. He also asked why the report on taxi licensing only referred to Hackney carriages with no mention of licensed private hire drivers.
Cllr Tom Stanway, lead councillor for culture and sport, said of the limit on the number of licences: “If the limit was removed it would be after consultation with drivers.”
Leader of the council Cllr Andrew Cumpsty reassured the drivers: “Genuinely, this council and this cabinet now believes in consultation.”
FORMER taxi mogul John Preece has revealed that his only regular income is a £60-a-week state pension.
Mr Preece was speaking as he confirmed he had officially launched a £10million legal claim against a bank.
He is blaming Lloyds TSB for him closing his Taxifast company last October, and has lodged a claim in Bristol High Court for alleged breach of contract.
Meanwhile, the former private hire king is living in his house in Portugal with just £60 a week in state pension coming in.
Mr Preece said he has been told he does not qualify for the full amount of pension – because he has not paid enough National Insurance contributions.
But the 68-year-old stressed: “I’m not destitute.”
He said he had “a little bit of income on top of my pension” but it was “different from the several hundred thousand pounds I was getting before”. He said this cash was raised by “realising assets” – in other words, selling things off.
Mr Preece has sold his luxury car, and had “yard sales” to dispose of contents of his house in the US.
That house is also on the market, although Mr Preece expects to make a loss on it.
“I can no longer pay the mortgage,” he said.
A yacht is also up for sale.
Mr Preece’s Plymouth home, valued at £800,000 by one bank, was security for a loan and overdraft, along with personal guarantees of Mr Preece’s.
Mr Preece said his ownership of the house is now under threat and said: “The banks are going for any assets I have in the UK. They have made a move to take my property. They have started proceedings. I will fight that.”
He said: “I’m 68. All I’m getting from the state is £60 a week pension.
“I’m amazed at that. I paid in so much over the years, but they are saying I had not paid enough National Insurance stamps.
“I’m relying on the charity of the few friends I have.
“I’m not destitute, but it’s a struggle.
“I’ve had bigger struggles and at least I have my health,” he said, pointing out that he does not smoke or drink.
“Forty-five years in the business and I have always paid my way.
“I’m realising assets, selling what I can. I have had yard sales in the US. I had a Lincoln Town Car, nearly new. I have sold that.
“I’m living off my assets. I have the boat up for sale.”
Mr Preece said he has “estimated” his claim at £10million because: “It cost millions to built Taxifast up. Taxifast was 22 years old.”
But he stressed the action is “not for me”.
He said he was also seeking the damages for Taxifast drivers who had shares in a workers’ benefit trust, and for Taxifast creditors.
Last autumn, Mr Preece ceased the trading activities of his firms Taxifast Ltd and its parent company Key Cabs Ltd.
At the time he said changes to the way Lloyds TSB financed his companies meant they were struggling to meet the weekly pay bill of their 350 employees and private hire drivers.
He said if he had not closed the companies, there was the possibility creditors would have forced them to be wound up.
The ‘particulars of claim’ he filed at Bristol High Court give further details. It alleges Taxifast changed from an invoice discounting system to a factoring system “under duress”.
Factoring and invoice discounting are similar systems, whereby firms receive cash up-front using sales invoices as collateral.
Invoice discounting involves a business borrowing a percentage of the value of its sales ledger.
Under a factoring arrangement, the business sells its invoices.
Mr Preece alleges this shift resulted in the bank seeking “further unlimited personal guarantees” from him and a huge reduction in the amount of cash paid to Taxifast under the factoring arrangement.
The particulars of claim said this “sudden reduction in cash flow” led to Mr Preece being unable to pay Taxifast wages and therefore having to cease trading.
Mr Preece said there would be two court hearings, one to assess liability and another to decide on the quantity of any damages, if awarded.
A Lloyds TSB spokesman said: “We are aware that Mr Preece intends to lodge a claim but have not received it yet. When we do, we will consider what he has to say.”
One in ten taxis tested in Cornwall has been banned from the road.
Police and safety officials pulled over more than a hundred from Saltash to St Ives.
Among the problems found were worn tyres and frayed seatbelts.
Teams checked vehicles in Saltash, St Austell ,Camborne, Redruth and most recently around Bodmin, Hayle and St Ives.
About fifty percent of those vehicles inspected had minor defects included missing fire extinguishers and first aid kits, and broken light covers.
Roads Policing Inspector at Bodmin Martin Taylor said: “We understand that taxis are a valuable part of the local economy and our job is to make sure they are safe and people have the confidence to leave their own cars at home and use taxis when they have been drinking.
“We will continue making these checks and hope people see this as a positive step to increase their confidence in the licensing and enforcement authorities. Part of our aim is to support the majority of taxi operators who run safe and lawful businesses and we thank them for their compliance”.