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.”


Hackney drivers’ request denied

Taxi drivers reacted angrily to a council decision not to force private hire vehicles to differentiate themselves from Hackney carriages with “no booking, no ride” signs.

Hackney carriage drivers say the ruling will damage trade and could end in tragedy, but councillors at a heated meeting last week decided there was no reason for new rules.

Drivers want cab laws enforced

The Bracknell Licensed Taxi Forum (BLTF) represents Hackney carriage drivers, who are allowed to pick up from the taxi ranks around town or be flagged down in the street.

But it says private hire vehicles, which need to be booked in advance, are plying for trade around the borough and particularly at the rank by the bus station in the town centre.

It also says the situation, caused by a minority of private hire drivers, is dangerous because passengers who have not booked a private hire are uninsured when they travel in one.

Speaking at the meeting of Bracknell Forest’s licensing and safety committee last Thursday, BLTF spokesman John Yexley said: “We are in full support of private hire vehicles with a sign on them saying ‘no booking, no ride’ and to make that compulsory.

“Our main objective is the safety of the public. The majority of the private hire drivers are honest and work to the rules. It’s just a minority that don’t and we all know who they are.

“I don’t know if this committee is aware that if a private hire driver picks up a fare without a booking then they are uninsured.”

The committee, chaired by Councillor Marc Brunel-Walker, decided against the proposal.

Committee member Cllr Ian Leake said: “I come from the side of the fence that believes we should keep things as simple as possible. At this moment there doesn’t seem to be a problem.

“I heard what the speaker said. There was a comment about it being a small minority who allegedly engage in this practice and that they are well known.

“If that’s the case, report them.

“I don’t think we should put the vast majority of private hire drivers to the distress and expense of putting a sign on their cars.”

The other councillors on the panel voted in favour of Cllr Leake’s proposal not to introduce the rule, prompting shouts from taxi drivers at the back of the council chamber.

Cllr Brunel-Walker urged the drivers to stay quiet or risk being ejected from the meeting.

Speaking after the hearing, John said: “This council has the responsibility to care for their voters and their taxi drivers and they’re not bothered.

“One day there will be an accident involving an uninsured private hire vehicle and they will have done nothing to prevent it.”


Be fair on fares, plead Breckland taxi drivers

David Hixson, director of Breckland Taxis in Dereham.
David Hixson, director of Breckland Taxis in Dereham.

Taxi-drivers in Breckland have demanded to be allowed to raise their fares so they can keep pace with huge rises in fuel and licensing costs.

Maximum taxi fares in the district are set by Breckland Council and have remained unchanged for the past five years, even though the same authority has twice increased the fees it charges to firms.

The most recent review took 
place this month, when a committee agreed to a series of fee rises to cover a £6,000 deficit in the council’s 
own costs for administering the service.

During the same five-year period, petrol prices have soared by 40pc to their present record levels.

But, with no control over what they can charge, taxi-drivers have been forced to absorb the spiralling costs that have cut deep into their take-home pay.

David Hixson, chairman of Breckland Hackney Carriage Association, said that, unless the council sanctioned a corresponding increase in fares to balance fee rises, it was taking money from drivers’ pockets.

Mr Hixson said: “It is just intolerable. The first rise was absorbed by drivers three years ago, and it looks like we’re going to have to do it again.

“It is taking money directly out of our pockets. You can only do so much work in an hour, so you have got to work more hours, which puts pressure on an individual’s lifestyle and their family.”

Mr Hixson, a director of Dereham-based Breckland Taxis, said he believed a fare rise of at least 7pc was needed to help keep taxis on the road.

He said he had helped one fellow driver with his paperwork and was stunned to discover that, once all his costs had been accounted for, he was left with only £120 a week.

Breckland’s general purposes committee agreed to the new fees structure after hearing that the revenue did not cover admin costs, with a £100 hackney carriage licence costing on average £116.58 to process, monitor and enforce.

However, officials say the request for a fare review is likely to be discussed by councillors later in the year.

Breckland’s head of licensing, Stephanie Butcher, said: “Following a recent taxi licensing charges review, a fare review has been requested and is being progressed by the Breckland Council licensing service.

“Following background work, a report will go to council members in the next couple of months. The report will then go out to public consultation and, subject to objection, will be considered by [the] council.”

Maximum fares in the district are now £3 for the first mile and £1.80 a mile thereafter, with premium rates charge-able after 11.30pm and on Sundays.


New taxi driver rules delayed over wording

CHANGES to licensing rules making it tougher to become a taxi driver have been delayed.

Members of the Licensing Committee at Basildon Council took the step of deferring a move which would have meant people who had been convicted of serious offences would be barred from ever becoming a cab driver.

Proposals had been drafted with crimes seperated into three categories, depending on the severity of the offence. But councillors were not happy about some offences being seperated from similar crimes which were racially aggrivated, as it was felt they were as bad as each other.

Convictions for common assault, criminal damage and public order offences were put in category C, meaning anyone applying to become a taxi driver would have to wait three years before they could be considered.

Racially-aggravated versions of the same offences were put in category B, meaning drivers convicted would have to wait seven years.

David Abrahall, chairman of the committee, was unhappy the offences had been split into two categories.

Mr Abrahall: “I know we are trying to tie in with taxi and Hackney Carriage advice from London, but I do not agree with this wording and the difference between common assualt and criminal damage, and racially-aggravated versions of the crimes.

“You cannot say because something is racially aggrivated that it is more important or worse than something that is not, because it is still a bad crime.”

It was agreed by the committee the proposals needed to be reworded so the offences of common assault, criminal damge and public order offences, whether racially aggrivated or not, are in the same category.

The committee deferred the decision until March 23.


Private Hire drivers ‘stung’ in police operation against illegal trade

CRACKING DOWN: Councillor Joy Garner.
CRACKING DOWN: Councillor Joy Garner.

THREE private hire drivers have been fined after plying for trade on the streets in Stoke-on-Trent.

They were arrested as part of a joint operation between Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire Police in Hanley on the evening of July 30 last year.

Prosecutor Trevor Vernon, representing the city council, yesterday told North Staffordshire Magistrates’ Court in Newcastle that private hire drivers can only pick up a pre-booked fare, whereas hackney carriage drivers can be flagged down in the street.

Mr Vernon said undercover officers got into Patrick Dickman’s private hire vehicle in Trinity Street, Hanley, in the early hours of July 31.

“They asked if he was booked. He replied ‘No’ and they asked him to take them on a journey,” said Mr Vernon.

Dickman, aged 45, of Badgers Croft, Red Street, Chesterton, pleaded guilty to driving a carriage or plying for hire when not licensed as a public hackney carriage.

The father-of-three, a licensed private hire driver with Newcastle Borough Council, was fined £130 and ordered to pay £180 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Alison Downs, mitigating, said Dickman, of previous good character, had been under a lot of stress.

She said: “Quite a lot of taxi drivers were stung in the operation that evening.”

Atta Mohammed, aged 34, of Dibden Court, Honeywall, Stoke, a licensed private hire driver with the city council, took two undercover officers to Etruria’s Moat House Hotel.

He pleaded guilty to plying for hire without a hackney carriage licence and was fined £145 with £180 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Miss Downs said: “When approached he said he was free, they got in and the rest is history. Money was tight, he saw a fare, he took the business.

“Some evenings drivers can be sat around waiting for a fare for three hours.”

And Mohammed Pervez, aged 36, of Suffolk Road, Lightwood, also pleaded guilty to plying hire without a hackney carriage licence on July 30.

Officers asked him if he was booked. He said he wasn’t so they asked him to take them to the Borough Arms, Newcastle.

The married father-of-five was fined £150 with £180 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Councillor Joy Garner, who chairs the city council’s licensing and registration panel, said the authority is determined to stamp out plying for hire among the city’s 1,400 private hire drivers.

She said: “This is taking trade away from our 153 hackney carriage drivers, who invest a lot of money in their purpose-built cars and ensuring they are fully compliant with licence conditions.

“We are targeting the plying for hire blackspots in Transport Lane, Longton; Tower Square, Tunstall; Trinity Street, Hanley; and Pickford Place, Meir.

“Private hire drivers who repeatedly loiter there are summoned to appear before my panel, where they can have their licences suspended.”