Call for study on number of taxis

CAMPAIGNERS have hailed a minor victory in their battle to reduce the number of cabs in Sevenoaks.

The Sevenoaks Town Taxi Drivers’ Association has spent nine months lobbying Sevenoaks District Council about the apparent surplus of vehicles licensed as Hackney carriages in the town.

Hackney carriages are public hire vehicles, which can be picked up by passengers without prior booking.

Up until 2008, the number of licence plates that could be issued each year was limited to 192.

In that year the limit was lifted and at the moment, 208 Hackney plates are in use by taxi drivers.

The association argues that there are too many drivers competing for customers and said that a feasibility study should have been carried out before the decision was made in 2008.

Steps towards a resolution were made at a licensing committee meeting at the Sevenoaks District Council office on Wednesday, January 26.

Councillors recommended a consultation of taxi drivers in the Sevenoaks and Swanley district to see whether such a study should take place.

If a 75 per cent majority is reached, it is likely to go ahead later this year.

Assistant secretary to the association Mike Simmonds said: “The livelihood of these men is at risk and they can’t afford to maintain their taxis properly. You see them driving round with bald tyres and all sorts.

“It’s a question of passenger safety.”

Anthony Garnett, who manages the district council’s licensing partnership, told the committee no study was carried out before because there is no need when no limit is imposed.

He added that a study would cost in the region of £10,000 to £15,000 – which the taxi drivers themselves would have to finance.

Mr Simmonds also claimed too many cabs are allowed to pick up passengers from Sevenoaks station.

Meteor Parking is in charge of handing out permits to drivers to allow them to wait at the station and in August last year announced the number of permits was capped at 110, with a view to decreasing this to 90.

Mr Simmonds added: “There are drivers up in town feeling the pinch even more. I know, I’ve just spent time up there.

“An average taking for ten hours’ work is only £50.”

Sevenoaks District Council spokesman Daniel Whitmarsh said: “The council has listened carefully to the taxi drivers’ concerns and will continue to work closely with them to see if there are too many or too few Hackney Carriage vehicle licences issued within the Sevenoaks District.”

Meteor was unavailable for comment.


Judge halts cabbie’s prosecution over death of disabled student

Died: Kristian in his wheelchair and, below, his father, Kevin Holgate

POLICE are to launch a “full review” of their investigation into the death of a disabled teenager after the prosecution of a taxi driver accused of dangerous driving was halted by a judge.

Rastrick student Kristian Holgate, 17, who had muscular dystrophy, died almost a month after he was thrown from his wheelchair while travelling to Huddersfield New College in an adapted taxi being driven by Rahim Dad.

The 45-year-old taxi driver told police he had secured the wheelchair in the vehicle but forgot to fasten the seatbelt.

Days after the incident in February 2009, West Yorkshire Police wrote to Mr Dad, of Fir Road, Paddock, telling him he would not face prosecution unless significant new evidence came to light.

At the beginning of March that year Mr Holgate, who had suffered a cut to the head and a fractured left leg in the incident, died. The pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination on the teenager’s body concluded his death was due to natural causes, but further medical evidence obtained last year suggested there may have been a link between the teenager’s leg injury suffered in the taxi and his death.

Mr Dad was initially charged with an offence of dangerous driving about five months after Mr Holgate’s death but the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had been proposing to replace that allegation with a charge of causing death by careless driving at a trial this month.

Last week, however, Judge Peter Benson heard legal arguments about the whether the continued prosecution of Mr Dad was “an abuse of process” and he concluded the case should be stayed.

The ruling to halt the proceedings could not be reported until now, however, while the CPS decided whether or not to lodge an appeal against the decision.

During the legal arguments, the court heard that the letter from the police to Mr Dad had been sent without any consultation with the prosecution service.

Prosecutor Stephen Wood said that Mr Holgate’s parents had been sorely let down by the officers who had issued the letter to Mr Dad without seeking their advice.

Judge Benson said he found it quite incredible that such a critical decision could have been taken without any consultation and called for lessons to be learned from the “tragic case.” His ruling concluded that no new evidence had come to light between the issuing of the letter by the police and the decision to charge the taxi driver.

He also noted that even when Mr Dad was eventually charged, in August 2009, there was no assertion at that stage that his driving had caused the 17-year-old’s death.

He said: “I have with some reluctance, and knowing as I do that it will be a great disappointment to Kristian’s relatives, decided that it is not just and fair to allow this prosecution to continue.”

Reacting to the decision, West Yorkshire Police Chief Superintendent Alan Ford said: “This investigation was particularly complex from the very start after the injuries initially sustained by Kristian were, according to the medical services, not thought to be life-threatening.

“We are disappointed with the comments made in court.”

He added that an initial police review had found the CPS were “appropriately” involved in the case but a full review would now take place.

Mr Holgate’s father Kevin, who was at court to hear the ruling last Wednesday, tried to speak during the case, but Judge Benson said: “I’m afraid you can’t.

“I understand your feelings but we have to conduct these proceedings in a formal way and I have come to a conclusion on the law.”

I have with some reluctance decided it is not just and fair to allow this prosecution to continue.


Councillors hint at support for Dundee taxi cap

Long-standing calls to cap the number of taxis in Dundee have been cautiously backed by two members of the city’s licensing board.

SNP councillors Craig Melville and Stewart Hunter say they support, in principle, limiting the number of taxis in the city.

Tony Waters, secretary of Dundee Taxi Association (DTA), and Unite union taxi branch secretary Chris Elder — who for some time have called for a cap to be imposed — welcomed the comments.

But Dundee licensing board committee chairman Rod Wallace said the elected officials had “jumped the gun” as formal discussions were yet to be held.

A report commissioned by the committee, examining a cap option, is being prepared. It is expected to go before members early next month. In the meantime Mr Melville says he has urged Rod Wallace to call a meeting of the taxi liaison group, comprising elected members and officers of the city council, the police and representatives of the trade, to canvass opinion.

“I think the first commitment the committee should have is to protect licence holders in the city,” said the councillor for Maryfield. “I have written to Rod Wallace requesting a meeting with the taxi liaison group which I believe last sat in May 2010.

“We should have more regular meetings in the future to help address such issues.”

Meanwhile Stewart Hunter, councillor for Strathmartine, says more discussions are needed before a decision on taxi numbers is made.

“It would be interesting to hear how limiting the number of taxis would work,” he said. “I know with other authorities some have a cap and some don’t. But I would like to hear from taxi drivers and operators to listen to what they have to say.”

Tony Waters described the councillors’ stance on the issue as “great news”, adding, “We know the board can introduce a cap on taxis legally. Other cities have already done so. The perfect example is Perth and Kinross. This really is a welcome development.”

In Dundee there are currently 576 hackneys and a further 200 private-hire vehicles. But with around 1600 taxi badge holders, drivers are becoming increasingly concerned that supply is outstripping demand.

Chris Elder of Unite says his organisation is aiming to avoid this scenario.

“It’s great to see the SNP backing the trade,” said Mr Elder. “I have sent emails into Rod Wallace highlighting the need of a cap.”

In the aftermath of next month’s committee meeting councillors may choose to advance the idea of a cap with a demand survey, which could take as long as six months to complete. This survey would help decide the top-line figure for taxis permitted in the city.

But Mr Elder said that if plans did advance to this stage he would expect there to be a wave of new taxi applications before the door closed.

“We are concerned that during that time we will record a steep rise in the numbers of people going for a licence before numbers are limited. Legislation is available to do this and we would like to see it brought into force,” he said.

Mr Wallace, Conservative councillor for Broughty Ferry, said his fellow councillors had “jumped a bit ahead of themselves” with their comments.

“It is no secret that there is a lot of lobbying going on behind the scenes, and that is not surprising,” he said.

Mr Wallace added that if a cap were progressed then the committee would be unable to dismiss applicants out of hand without a valid reason.

“Mr Elder’s suggestion not to allow new applications before the cap came into force would not hold any water,” he said. “Any application we refuse within that period without good reason could be appealed to the sheriff court, and I believe those appeals would be upheld.

“The likely outcome would be that the city council would end up paying the costs.”


Striking cabbies bring rush-hour Coventry ring road to standstill

STRIKING cabbies blockaded Coventry city centre yesterday causing a rush-hour headache for other motorists.

A “go-slow” line of black cabs clogged city centre streets and the ring road from 4pm to 6pm.

About 40 taxis were led by a police escort from Coventry railway station, past the Council House and onto the ring road.

From there, they crawled along at a snail’s pace, causing delays for people heading home from work.

Some of the worst-hit areas were near Swanswell Pool and the ring road exit for Holyhead Road.

As the strike entered day two yesterday, taxi drivers’ leaders claimed the stoppage had been a success with 98 per cent of drivers refusing to work.

Earlier there was frustration at taxi ranks blockaded by stationary cabs, where only disabled people had a chance of getting a taxi.

As the deadlock continued with council chiefs refusing to bow to the drivers’ demands, many furious cabbies sought public backing, claiming their livelihoods were being ruined.

They said they had reached breaking point after years of demands for the council to limit the number of taxi licences and provide more ranks.

That view was partly backed, with Labour’s council leaders, who came to power last May, blaming the previous Conservative administration.

Labour councillor Lindsley Harvard, cabinet member for city services, said his planned three-month independent review into cabbies’ concerns would be the first examination since 1997 – if cabbies pay the £40,000 fee. His own party was in control until 2004.

About 100 cabbies protesting outside the Council House on Monday voted unanimously to renew last month’s strike, after council leaders ruled out an immediate temporary cap on licences.

Cabbies claim there could be up to 300 more taxis on the roads while the review takes place.

All 950 black cab and private licence drivers have been ordered not to pick up passengers, including for school runs contracted with the council, for as long as it takes until the council gives in.

Imran Zaman, of Coventry Taxi Association, said other councils, including Leicester, had issued emergency caps without reviews, a claim disputed by Coventry council leaders.

Coun Harvard said lawyers had advised that a temporary cap would leave the council open to potentially costly legal challenges from taxi-maker LTI or new taxi drivers who had ordered or bought vehicles.

Cabbies contested that claim, saying they had support from LTI.

Taxi drivers, all self-employed, say the council is breaching government guidelines that cabs should be limited to two per 1,000 people, and there are only 130 rank spaces.


Cabbies tighten belts as taxes take a toll

Taxi driver Dave Dickens-Smith with a passenger
Taxi driver Dave Dickens-Smith with a passenger

HELPED to her front door by taxi driver Dave Dickens-Smith, senior citizen Charmian Rowland, of The Fairway, Bexhill, said: “I have to use taxis at least once a week to get to and from town, and most of the drivers are just wonderful.


“They share a chat, often help me carry my shopping to the door and it would be a sad day if they ever gave up or weren’t around for some reason.”

Her words rang more true than they might, for Dave is well aware that many of his group’s members are nearing the end of their tether as they try to make a living.

“The increases being imposed on us as the council seeks to balance its books are quite extraordinary,” said Dave, who became a hackney carriage driver some 15 years ago and has been chairman of the RDTA for the past seven.

“If we could raise fares by the same percentages, we’d soon have no customers. But since the council also controls the amounts we are allowed to charge, we have no option but to try to absorb increases in our overheads as best we can.”

And it’s a tough trade to be in, as I discovered during a morning spent with Dave in his Skoda Octavia taxi, plying for hire from the eight-car rank in Devonshire Road.

No taxi is allowed to be more than 10 years old, and vehicles must undergo a compliance test – a more rigorous MoT test that even takes into account the state of trim – twice a year.

Drivers face a medical every five years and are checked against criminal record bureau files every three, the costs of which they must meet themselves.

When first venturing out, their car needs a roof-mounted “top box” to identify it as a taxi, and must have a calibrated meter installed to monitor distances travelled and fares charged.

On top of this, they must obtain a taxi or private hire licence plus relevant vehicle plates from the district council, which from April 1 will cost a combined £305 a year, against neighbouring Wealden’s £255 and Hastings £286.

All such costs come out of a taxi driver or operator’s own pocket, yet it soon becomes clear that margins are tight.

The basic tariff for hire is £2.40 for the first 176 yards, 20p for each additional 198 yards or part thereof for the first mile, and then 20p for every 234.6 yards or part thereof after one mile. A 10p charge applies for every 20 seconds or part thereof waiting time.

In almost three hours on the rank, Dave’s cab was hired just twice and earned him a princely £11.40.

He said: “Without regular school runs and the occasional distance booking by mobile phone or being hailed on the street, I’d find it a real struggle, and so would many of my colleagues.”

With 128 plated cabs plus private hire cars spread throughout Rother, and just 18 rank spaces in Bexhill – down from 24 in the past six years – competition is keen and can lead to friction between rival firms and independents as they chase what custom is available.

Such disunity is anathema to Dave, who also laments some drivers’ poor standards and presentation. He feels this undermines the professionalism he is keen to promote.

A decision by drivers’ representatives to resign last April from a taxi liaison committee set up by the council reflected a feeling that their input was not considered worthwhile, yet having a “50-50” forum fairly engaging both council and cabbies is still high on Dave’s wish list.

“I would like to see a better understanding among both councillors and officers of what we do and how their decisions affect us, so that we’re not just being dictated to or treated as a money-tree, and I’d like to see the trade more united and not have the apathy that exists among some drivers over standards,” he said.


Taxi firms’ anger as ‘bullying’ council asks for price cuts

TRAFFORD Council have told taxi operators currently carrying out contracts for them that prices will need to be slashed by at least 10 per cent.

A letter has been sent out to all taxi firms affected explaining they should take the cut or face losing the contract when a new tendering process allowing firms from outside Trafford for the the first time to submit bids. It follows a ‘best value procurement review’ last year.

Firms who fail to reduce their contract prices by a ‘minimum of 10 per cent’, cannot be ‘guaranteed future business’, the letter warns.

While taxi drivers are accusing the council of bullying tactics, the council defended its stance saying it was about ensuring best value was achieved.

Corporate director for environment, transport and operations, Peter Molyneux, said: “The Council needs to ensure it is getting the best value for money out of this service, and through a competitive tendering process we can make sure this is happening.

“A letter has been issued to all of our current suppliers to inform them of this.

“In a time when all public bodies are having to make savings, we have suggested to our suppliers that they review their prices before submitting a tender so they remain competitive.

“We want to encourage local businesses to be part of this framework which could result in even further business for them.”

But a taxi driver who SUM spoke to, who asked only to be identified as John, said: “At a time when costs are rising, including fuel, the council wants us pay us less. A 10 per cent cut for me on the contract I do means a £35 a week cut.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” said the driver of 15 years. “It down to the government giving the council less money, and getting the council to do their dirty work. But having said that, how would they like it if their staff were given a 10 per cent cut. They’ve got the union on their side though and we’ve got no one.”

Another taxi operator who contacted Messenger under agreement of anonymity said: “I’ve had to accept the cuts. If I didn’t I would have had to let drivers go. It’s bully-boy tactics.”


Taxi association calls for a cap on number of licences

Dundee Taxi Association is calling for the city council to take a leaf out of Perth’s book and place a cap on the number of taxi operator licences it hands out.

After carrying out a consultation on deregulating the trade in the area, Perth and Kinross licensing committee last week decided not to lift the cap on numbers which has been in place since 1979.

The issue has been something of a thorn in the side of taxi drivers in Dundee, who have been battling the council for several years to have the number of licence holders in the city regulated.

DTA secretary Tony Waters said there are already too many cabs competing for business in Dundee.

“It is unbelievable that Dundee has got an open policy and is still handing out licences,” he went on. “We have been complaining about this for years, given the fact that other towns like Perth still have limits.

“It just doesn’t make sense that Dundee still has this policy. We basically just can’t figure out why they are continuing to hand out licences.”

Mr Waters said he understood there are around 576 “hackneys” and a further 200 private hire vehicles on the road in Dundee, with numbers rising every month.

“Pie is only so big”

“Even if they capped the numbers now it would take years for the trade to recover,” he went on.

“The pie is only so big and the Dundee population is dwindling.”

As well as being hit in the pocket, the number of cabs on the road is raising safety concerns for drivers, he continued.

“The police have spoken to drivers about sitting in unofficial taxi ranks,” he said. “But when the ranks are full, there is just no place to sit.”

Dundee’s licensing convener Rod Wallace could provide little short-term comfort to the taxi association.

He said the council was awaiting direction from the Scottish Government on the issue and it appeared unlikely that any information would be forthcoming before the Holyrood elections in May.


Holding out for a Hero

Selective Committee selective memories

The Reiver

Holding out for a Hero




I’m going to start this month with a quote from Winston Churchill, which given my Gaelic roots, does tend to go very much against the grain.


“Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.”

To the layman, (that’s you), Churchill was saying that Democracy is the best of a bad job. You see, in the all encompassing method of democracy everyone should have their say, on seemingly absolutely everything in society. This is very possibly the reason those perverts who wear lycra and ride around on pavements scaring the bejeezus out of pedestrians, also known as the cycle lobby, are able to waste countless hours of Casey’s time in transport meetings. Democracy gives everyone a voice, no matter how stupid the voice maybe.


The recent Transport Committee enquiry is further proof of this, you need to read the responses just to understand how truly peculiar some people are. As a strange coincidence, the select committee appeared at the same time Jeremy Kyle was on ITV, how weird is that? But as stated above due to the way democracy works the committee allow representations from all manner of people, no matter how bonkers, selfish or how many windows they lick.


You can be the National Taxi Association (NTA), which represent thousands of taxi people across the UK or Bert of ‘Bert’s Taxis’ near Crosby Ravensworth in Westmoreland, with a single cab. You can put you’re ideas down on paper, give them to the select committee and they will be given consideration alongside the NTA’s. The fact you may base your taxi views amongst a few dark thoughts of sheep, get all of your work from a mobile phone, don’t know what a taxi rank is and consider Emmerdale as current affairs, is overlooked. In a democracy the view of Bert is equal to the NTA.


The whacky old Unite union was of course the body responsible for bringing taxis to the attention of the select committee…..thanks guys!… Their membership, in Liverpool was justifiably miffed with private hire vehicles licensed in Sefton sitting in their area awaiting pre-booked work. The fact this practice isn’t actually illegal doesn’t appear to have got a look in. Call me old fashioned, but if a vehicle is illegally plying for hire in another area, then the people responsible for sorting the mess out are the local authority. It isn’t the job of a select committee in the House of Commons. It’s not as if Liverpool council don’t try. In a recent swoop they captured a PHV from Bangor which apparently travelled 75 miles to illegally ply and one from Burnley. Indeed, of the 9 vehicles captured that were licensed in Sefton, 6 of them were Sefton hackney carriages. Of the 3 Sefton PHVs, 2 were illegally plying and 1 had a dodgy tyre. In my view taking this before a select committee was patently stupid, I can’t be alone in thinking that because the NTTG didn’t bother with a response and from memory no taxi association in the Greater Manchester area bothered either.


A person from a god-awful place called Norwich did write to the committee complaining about similar things to what UNITE were moaning about, the law needs to be changed they exclaimed. Okay, changed to what? Given best practice guidance, one certain thing to come out from any new law will be nationwide deregulation, is that better or worse?  Is that what you people want? I’m convinced I’m dealing with geriatric lunatics here.


The problem with the cab trade is that people shout their mouths off about what appears to be popular, there’s nothing by the way of any forethought as to what will happen in the future. They seem to be ignorant of Newton’s third law of motion; for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction.


Private Hire operators in Sefton then advise the select committee their fees are the cheapest in Merseyside, if not the world! This echoes the Berwick scenario because that’s what those who licensed themselves in Berwick said. Admittedly, Berwick Council were more accommodating than the red light district of Amsterdam towards applicants, they bent over allowing out of area testing at a cheap, cheap price and according to the minutes of a meeting in March 2006, dispensed with age limits, this is something the Dutch ladies of the night apparently never do, presumably they had higher standards than Berwick council, well according to Cummins anyway.


Naturally, it doesn’t actually occur to them or the councils responsible for licensing, if the vehicles are operating for the majority of the time in another area, the cost of enforcement increases in the area they sit. This is a little like buying a toaster, using your neighbours electricity to power it, then telling your neighbour how cheap your new toaster is. Or perhaps buying a car, nicking your neighbours credit card to pay for fuel, then telling your neighbour the car is the best in the world and so economical it’s untrue!


I wrote last month, giving my view that zoning was needed in respect of Hackney Carriages, I pointed to the stupid idea that County Durham were considering, where 7 licensing areas were to be amalgamated. I alluded to local authorities lowering standards to save on money. Indeed, like delimitation, the effects of de-zoning an area are irreversible. One of the daftest ideas to be suggested to the select committee was one of a Merseyside license. This has already been mooted in Greater Manchester by virtue of a secret society called AGMA. Now, what kind of eejit would come up with an idea like this?


This super dooper license will allow a taxi from anywhere in Merseyside to ply for hire anywhere in Merseyside. If we concentrate on that godforsaken place, where there are currently 5 authorities making up the area, Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, St Helens & Wirral. Obviously, in terms of the area, the City of Liverpool is the hub. Each area has differing taxi policies, some restrict taxi numbers, others only allow certain vehicle types, some allow saloons to be licensed as taxis; some have vehicle age policies and almost all have some type of knowledge test. Even if such an idea was politically possible, and that itself would be an achievement, as each council see its own area as its own private thiefdom, the question needs to be asked what kind of licensing policy would it adopt? Would it use Wirral’s age policy? Where all Hackney Carriages on first and subsequent licensing are subject to age restrictions. Would it use Sefton’s vehicle policy? Which is one where saloon vehicles can be licensed?

How would a knowledge test be even passable, are people seriously expecting a driver currently licensed in the Wirral to have a workable knowledge of the mean streets of Southport? Indeed, would they dispense with a knowledge test and go for ‘sat navs’, but more about that later.


Obviously any hope of retaining control of taxi numbers would disappear; there would always be an unmet demand for taxis somewhere in Merseyside. If you don’t believe this then I ask you to think about the Wirral survey after deregulation, cab numbers increased fourfold and there still weren’t enough cabs in the outlying areas.

Indeed, using the example of the Wirral, where the taxi drivers use a ‘bee’s round the honeypot’ mentality in respect of Birkenhead, one can only imagine the same will happen with regard to Merseyside as a whole, with Liverpool being the preferred ranking venue of choice.


One contributor, who has obviously never driven a cab in his life, remarked in his submission that taxi drivers could and should utilise satellite navigation as opposed to topographical knowledge, quite remarkable ignorance. There is no denying the usefulness of ‘Sat Nav’s’ but they can never replace a working knowledge of an area, let alone a reasonable knowledge of local places of interest. The above view was contrary to what one alleged taxi bloke told the committee, I must admit, at that point I did start swearing. One chap said taxi drivers in Milton Keynes go out each day to earn £150….. don’t we all mate? What we actually earn is obviously another matter and no where near £150 per day you plonker!


Indeed, the same chap appeared to suggest all taxis had data equipment and all taxis journeys could be monitored. That was certainly news to me that one. Strange, I didn’t feel anyone at the select committee hearing actually represented my views, indeed, I thought the MPs on the committee were essentially stupid, asking pointless questions to gormless individuals who fumbled and fidgeted in answering questions.


I may be seen as cynical but I was dramatically underwhelmed by the case and performance of the hackney carriage trade in front of the committee. If this is the best the taxi trade can muster, then I think you’re all going to have to seriously prepare for a very different future. It should however be remembered that someone in the background selected the people giving oral evidence. I find that weird, it’s a little like the manager of the opposing team picking the side he’s playing against!

Some of team taxi appeared to dig themselves into holes and then carried right on digging. Let me remind people of what should have been pointed out, in a very blunt manner to this silly ‘waste of space’ selective committee with its daft selective people giving evidence: Local authorities are issuing taxi plates without giving a tuppenny toss about where taxis will stand for hire…….in other words there isn’t enough rank space nationally; drivers are being suspended for over-ranking. Certain companies are circumventing local licensing requirements by getting themselves licensed in areas where the standards are lower……the phrase ‘flag of convenience’ can be sprinkled about liberally and as required. This was and is not the intention of taxi legislation.


If the law as it is now were actually enforced then there wouldn’t be a problem. Whatever silly ideas this silly committee with people with silly beards come up with, unless someone is there to enforce it, it’s a waste of time; talking of time wasting, who on earth picked the local authorities? The guy from Northumberland, and I’m sure he’s a nice man who loves his children very much, comes from a place that doesn’t currently have byelaws in place for hackney carriages and they are essentially a new Unitary authority. What insight could this poor guy give anyone?


One MP asked about numbers limitation, apart from the fact they were not there to discuss that, why did nobody point out that the government had ignored the select committee reports of mid 2000’s and accepted the OFT recommendations, why didn’t anyone point out that the statistical evidence of the OFT was flawed and actually proved customers were better catered for in places where authorities regulated numbers?


Whilst riveted to the select committee via the interweb thing, I did notice amongst the gang was the leader of Milton Keynes council, who bravely appeared sporting a beard. He told the world they used to have limited taxi numbers and he wouldn’t dream of returning to that situation. Strange thing, I got the impression, and I might be a million miles out here, that the last people on the mind of the guy from Milton Keynes were the cab drivers of his area. Mind you, given the performance of the MK Cabbies, I can’t say I blame him.


Moreover, asking a London based private hire operator to appear in front of the committee was bizarre to say the least, especially considering they didn’t appear to offer any written evidence. This gives way to a massive conspiracy theory currently circulating through the taxi trade. I don’t know what the outcome of this business will be, given the strange stance of some, I don’t think it’ll be anything good, and I suggest the taxi trade prepare for war. Casey wrote last month about his great fear with this, he suggested Pandora’s Box had been opened, there can be little denying he was right. Indeed, he pointed out that the taxi trade seemed to believe the private hire trade would sit idle and watch as the taxi trade tried to change their business. He pointed out the taxi trade would write to the committee condemning the current system further fuelling the fire towards change. I can offer the view that some of the select committee do appear to be completely bonkers, I must admit I do like that in any committee.


That being said, it puts them on a par with the blatant ignorance of local authorities, national government and the DFT, given the downright calculated cunning of certain private hire operators. Also given the apathy, splits and differences of opinion in the Hackney Carriage trade. I have a genuine fear that we will be left with an entire mess. Unless the Hackney Carriage trade get a grip very quickly, the future of the taxi trade will be very grim indeed. Only one person in the country’s taxi trade, in my view, has sufficient enough a personality and ample enough knowledge to turn this almighty mess around, his ego is big enough already, I leave you to work out who I’m alluding to? If the select committee has proven anything, it obviously proves that my plans for world domination will have to go ahead sooner, rather than later.


©taxitalk magazine

The above views are published for information purposes only, they have nothing to do with the National Taxi Association.

Probe after mum claims taxi driver refused fare because she was carrying beer

Alison Dawson.
Alison Dawson.

A MUM from Sheffield was left “gobsmacked” when a taxi driver refused to let her travel in his black cab because she was carrying a pack of beer.


Alison Dawson, aged 46, of Manor Oaks Garden, Hyde Park, attempted to board with her bags of shopping outside the Co-op on Castle Street in the city centre.

But she said the driver spotted her 12-pack of Cobra beer and told her: “You’re not getting in this cab.”

Alison was allowed to travel in another taxi without any problems – and thinks the first driver may have refused her because of religious beliefs.

Sheffield Council, which regulates black cabs, told her to submit a complaint.

Alison, who works on Pickles Farms stall in Castle Market, said she had six bags of shopping as well as the alcohol and went to catch the taxi home at around 4.10pm.

“I went to the first taxi in the rank. He wound his window down and said ‘What’s that?’ I said ‘What’s what?’ He looked at the beer and said ‘You’re not getting in this cab – you can get in another’.”

Alison, who has a nine-year-old son Lukas Dawson-Fell, said: “I was panicking, I had to get home because my son wasn’t feeling well. I was absolutely gobsmacked. I think it was because of his faith. I’m not xenophobic, but if he’s a taxi driver, that’s his job.

“I’m a strict vegetarian, but I don’t say I’m refusing to serve sausages at work. I don’t believe in any sort of discrimination. Does he not let people get in when they’ve been in a pub?”

Alison said she bought the beer for her partner James Bryson, 30, and remarked she “doesn’t even drink”.

“The next driver was absolutely fine. I rang the council and they advised me to put it into a complaint.”

Council chief licensing officer Clive Stephenson said: “We would not comment on this particular incident as we are still awaiting Mrs Dawson’s complaint and it is, therefore, an ongoing investigation.

“I cannot condone the response described by Mrs Dawson, as we believe the vast majority of our taxi drivers offer a very good service to the people of Sheffield.

“We take complaints very seriously and investigate all complaints fully when received.”


Safety alert after bogus driver fined £200

MAGISTRATES in Barnsley have ordered a bogus taxi driver to pay out more than £600 after he was found carrying passengers without a valid licence.

Stephen Falkingham, 51, of Post Office Cottages in Sheffield Road, Oxspring, admitted driving an unlicensed private hire vehicle, not having a private hire drivers licence, operating as a private hire operator without the requisite licence and also driving without valid insurance.

Following complaints from private hire companies in Penistone, enforcement staff from Barnsley Council carried out an operation in September last year to target illegal vehicles and drivers in the town.

Officers booked Falkingham, who then drove them from Penistone town centre to Cubley Hall. He was then confronted by the council officers and admitted to working illegally.

At magistrates’ court Falkingham was later fined £200 and had his driving licence endorsed with eight points. In addition, he was ordered to pay costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £15.

Coun Charles Wraith, chairman of Barnsley Council’s regulatory licensing board, said: “In this case information was received from members of the taxi and private hire trade in Barnsley which assisted with the prosecution and I would like to thank them for their assistance.

“The court has once again sent a strong message to people who think they are above the law and seek to put the safety of passengers at risk.

“The council’s regulatory services officers will continue to take robust and proportionate enforcement action to protect public safety and the interests of legitimate operators.

“I would like to remind the public that they should always use licensed taxis and private hire vehicles for their journeys, as both the drivers and vehicles are regularly checked by the council to ensure that public safety is maintained.”