Uber just renewed its feud with London’s regulators

City AM reports that Uber is again turning to its customers to help it fight “bureaucratic” new rules imposed by Transport for London, including an English exam “harder than the test for British citizenship”, renewing its feud with regulators in the capital.

The billion-dollar company said the rules would “threaten the livelihood of thousands of drivers”, reducing their numbers and thus increasing the waiting times for users in an email directly appealing to customers and authored by Uber’s top boss in London, Tom Elvidge.

The new rules were given the greenlight by TfL in March following a long-running and public battle between the two sides and London’s black cab drivers.

At the time, Uber welcomed the result of TfL’s review after it dropped proposals that would enforce users to wait five-minutes after ordering a cab, even if there was a car available instantly.

Now, Uber is urging customers to email the newly elected Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to demand the rules – formulated after a comprehensive consultation conducted by TfL under the former Mayor Boris Johnson – are looked at afresh.

It’s understood that while the broad conclusions of the review are accepted, the finer details and exact form the rules will take, hammered out over the last few months, are more onerous than Uber had been expecting.

Uber has called into question the English language requirement rule – which it claims is harder than the test for British Citizenship and more than the requirements for becoming a Tube driver.

It has also called out a requirement for part-time drivers to have costly full-time commercial insurance even when they’re not driving, as well as the need for Uber to tell TfL of any changes to its app, which it argues would slow down the roll out of new features.

The latter two rules now already apply while the rule on English language tests will come into force from 1 October.

Those who receive the email are asked to click on a link to email the Mayor, leading to an already written reply which even signs a users name at the end automatically.

source: http://www.cityam.com/

 

Comment

Of course, unlike Tube drivers, minicab drivers do have to communicate with passengers, you would naturally assume speaking English in the nation’s capital to a reasonable degree would (and should) be a minimum acceptable standard, especially in an industry where drivers have direct contact with passengers.

The requirement to have full time hire and reward insurance merely brings London in line with the rest of the UK – a licensed vehicle is always a licensed vehicle – this has been the law since the case of Benson v Boyce [HC QBD] 1997.

Barrow taxi drivers banned from wearing hoodies or baseball caps

BARROW taxi drivers have been warned they could be sent home if council officers catch them wearing inappropriate clothes while on duty.

Barrow Borough Council’s licensing department is understood to be planning to enforce rules surrounding professional standards of taxi drivers working across Barrow, Dalton, Askam and Walney.

The Evening Mail understands council officers have confirmed they will begin enforcing a no smoking policy in taxis and a dress code while on duty.

TAXI DRIVERS’ DRESS CODE

Barrow Borough Council’s dress code for taxi drivers states: The Authority is committed to encouraging the professional image of the trade and it considers that drivers should conform to a minimum standard of dress, as set out below, in order to raise and maintain the profile of the licensed trade.

Whilst the Authority does not wish to impose such standards by way of conditions to any licence it expects, however, that such standards will be maintained at all times.

Acceptable Standards of Dress within this code:

Tops, shirts, blouses, T-shirts, or sweat tops should cover the shoulders and be capable of being worn inside trousers or shorts. Shirts or blouses can be worn with a tie or open necked. Trousers/Shorts/Skirts Trousers may be either full length or shorts if tailored. Short skirts should not be worn. Smart jean type trousers permitted.

Footwear

Footwear should fit around the heel of feet.

Examples of Unacceptable Standards of Dress within this code:

Bare chests Unclean or damaged clothing or footwear Clothing with offensive words, logos or graphics Sportswear promoting sports teams Clothing with studs or sharp edges Beach type footwear (e.g. Flip flops and mules) Baseball caps, “hoodies”,or “woolly hats” Tracksuits or shellsuits.

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

‘This is our livelihood’ – unhappy taxi drivers block road outside council’s HQ

TAXI drivers in Rossendale blockaded council offices in response to controversial proposed changes.

Rossendale cabbies were unhappy with new rules being implemented and united to block the road leading to the offices of Rossendale Council at Futures Park from 7.30am yesterday.

Members of the Rossendale Taxi Association have said they are outraged at new rules drivers are being asked to adhere to and have said they have not been consulted.

Glenn Bulcock, 59, group member and former chairman, said: “This is only the start, we’ll block the whole of Rossendale if we’re forced to.

“This is our livelihood and our living.”

The newest council plans include implementing one-colour taxis, an age restriction of 18 months for new taxis, and causing all drivers to take a two and a half hour knowledge test costing £70.

Monday’s protest is the most recent in a dispute after Rossendale Council was accused of approving too many hackney carriage licences last October.

A total of 1,864 drivers had been issued with taxi licences and just two for private hire for a population of 65,000.

This led to drivers acting as mini cabs across the North West and into Yorkshire.

The latest protest was resolved around midday after council officers met with representatives of the areas taxi trade to hear their concerns.

It was agreed that a workshop meeting with Rossendale taxi representatives will be set up to discuss planned changes but the result was not welcomed.

Mr Bulcock said: “I’m not really happy with the outcome, the workshop will just give us another meeting where they will try and force their ideas on us.

“But the support from taxi drivers was absolutely fantastic, we had the whole of Rossendale behind us. More than 300 people turned up.

“We felt we had to demonstrate. They can’t continue to make changes without our input.”

The council was only made aware of the industrial action by the press and said it worked quickly to tackle the issue.

Chairman of the licensing committee Cllr Steve Hughes welcomed the result and was glad when the roads were cleared.

He said: “It is pleasing that this has been resolved quickly their voices will be heard.”

Rossendale Council urged that any future disputes are resolved formally as they look to avoid the disruption of industrial action.

Legal service manager Clair Birtwistle said: “The best way to engage with this process would be to provide a formal response. Those wishing to formally engage with the Council, as the Licensing Authority, can do so online.”

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

Londonderry taxi operator fined £3,500 for taxi licensing offences

A licensed Londonderry taxi operator was fined a total of £3,500 at Londonderry Magistrates’ Court on 28 July 2016.

Taxi Co (NI Ltd) of 3(a) Lower Clarendon Street, Londonderry contested the matter but was found guilty and fined £2,000 for using an unlicensed taxi, £750 for failing to keep licensing and insurance records and £750 for using an unlicensed driver.

On 9 September 2015, DVA enforcement officers stopped and inspected a motor car displaying a ‘Taxi Co’ taxi roof sign at Crescent Link Retail Park, Londonderry.

Checks carried out at the scene established that its’ driver was a disqualified driver and that he did not hold a Taxi Driver’s Licence or valid motor insurance.

Further investigation also established that the vehicle was unlicensed and was operating on behalf of Taxi Co (NI Ltd) at the time.

source: https://www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/

New policy after South Ribble Council taxi licence row

Months after a taxi licensing scandal broke at South Ribble Council, a comprehensive regulation policy has been agreed.

Council members have voted to approve a draft document outlining the council’s policies including a ‘fit and proper person test’, qualifications needed and condition of vehicles.

Previously, the authority’s policy could be found within numerous decisions taken by the General Licensing Committee over previous years.

Councillor John Rainsbury, committee chairman, said this was the case for 80 per cent of borough councils across the country.

However, following a high-profile investigation into failings of South Ribble’s licensing department – including drivers being given licenses without correct documentation and reports of child sexual exploitation by two taxi drivers – it was “seen as best practice to have a comprehensive policy as it promotes a transparent and consistent approach towards the regulation of the trade”.

Developing a policy was also the number one recommendation made by independent solicitors who reviewed the council’s licensing functions.

Labour Councillor Matthew Tomlinson asked for two amendments to be made to the policy, which were agreed.

The first point related to items of clothing deemed inappropriate for drivers.

He said: “It’s picking out clothing that women might wear and I think that’s casual sexism. Just take it out and say inappropriate clothing, we all know what that means.”

He also suggested adding a requirement that a driver should have a valid driving licence, as there has been a case where a driver did not have permission to drive in the UK.

Coun Warren Bennett suggested reducing the time between health checks from five years to three years, but it was decided that this should go to consultation.

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

App company fails to expand in Oxford and North East England

Taxi drivers are celebrating a victory over Uber after the firm was barred from launching in Oxford.

Uber applied to operate in the city after 50,000 people tried to access the service there in a year, despite it not being available.

But licensed drivers and private hire firms rallied together to try and block the firm, which allows users to request a car through its mobile phone app.

Two of the city’s biggest private hire firms, 001 Taxis and Royal Cars, merged and launched their own app earlier this year to combat the potential threat.

They also raised concerns about the safety of Uber, questioning whether its drivers would abide by Oxford City Council’s regulations.

A year after announcing its intention to move to the city, Uber’s bid has been rejected as the company ‘didn’t get around to’ submitting vital details in time.

Local cabbies are delighted at the decision.

Niaz Mohammed, managing director of Royal Cars, said: ‘It’s great news for us and our customers.

‘We were very concerned about the safety of Uber and whether its drivers would abide by Oxford City Council’s regulations.

‘Their goal is to close down all the other companies and they would have disrupted the system that has been in place for many years.’

City of Oxford Licensed Taxicab Association secretary Sajad Khan added: ‘I’m very pleased and I’m sure all the city’s drivers are.

‘It would have been devastating for our trade and they would have wrecked the current system.

‘They charge awkward fares and there is also the question of safety. Our drivers go through very stringent checks but you hear some worrying stories about Uber drivers.’

A spokesman for Uber said it would not rule out reapplying in the future.

This comes as plans to ban Oxford’s black cabs from a new road to the city’s shopping centre were put on hold.

Oxford City Council said it did not decide to ban Uber from the city’s streets, but their application lapsed.

A spokesman said: ‘Uber’s application was made a year ago and they did not complete meeting all required criteria for a Private Hire Operator within the permitted 12 month period.

‘As such, they will need to reapply as a new applicant.’

Uber said: ‘We applied for a licence and you have a year to complete that process.

‘We put it in a year ago and that licence expired because we didn’t get around to finishing the application.

‘It is something we are going to do at some stage.’

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/

 

Uber taxis pulls plug on plans to extend to other parts of the North East

The taxi app firm decides not to press ahead with plans to extend operations, having already set up camp in Newcastle and Sunderland

The march to global domination of taxi app firm Uber has halted in parts of the North East at least.

We can reveal after submitting applications to operate in Gateshead and North Tyneside several months ago, they have now been withdrawn.

A Gateshead Council spokeswoman said: “Uber Britannia Ltd applied to the council to be licensed to operate taxis in Gateshead. In June this year, after a number of months of discussion, the company informed us it was withdrawing its application.”

Meanwhile North Tyneside Council said the application was first submitted on October 25, 2015 and it was withdrawn on June 1, 2016.

Neither council would say if the company gave any reason for its withdrawal.

A North Tyneside spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, due to commercial sensitivity, we aren’t able to provide any further detail.”

In April last year, Newcastle became one of 400 cities around the world to give permission to the ride-hailing platform to operate since it was launched in 2010.

This April, Sunderland joined its ranks while we understand an application is also being considered by Northumberland.

Chris Chandler, spokesman for the National Taxi Association in the North East, suggested the applications might have been withdrawn as Uber wasn’t able to meet the criteria laid down for taxi firms operating in those areas.

Mr Chandler, a long term critic of Uber whose operation he describes as “spreading like germs”, said many of its drivers had no local knowledge and would fail any ‘locality tests’ on knowing the patch they are in, known as ‘the knowledge’. Its drivers rely heavily on sat navs.

Newcastle City Council was criticised last year by long established operators after it scrapped the stringent test which demanded cabbies had in depth knowledge of the area they cover, opening the door for Uber to start up there.

Bosses at the city council say the decision to make the changes related to pending Government legislation, and the increased use of satellite navigation systems and app based systems.

To use Uber, passengers download its app on their smartphone which then uses GPS enabled maps to locate them, and they can request a nearby taxi with the press of a button.

The app then provides the taxi driver’s photo, name and car registration and users can watch the taxi approaching via a moving symbol on the map.

Uber spokesman in the North East, Harry Porter, said: “There’s been a lot of noise from a couple of local operators. The simple fact is the applications were withdrawn because we didn’t need the expense.

“We submitted applications in North Tyneside and Gateshead back in 2015. Since then, Uber has grown rapidly and we’ve been really pleased with how popular the service has become throughout the North East.

“We spent many months waiting for our applications to be progressed but our growth was not hampered in the meantime, so we decided there was no need to pursue these any further and instead focus on getting on with serving the region.”

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

Plans to operate ‘executive’ taxis with tinted windows at Luton Airport blocked by council

PLANS to operate tinted window taxis like limousines from Luton Airport have been dealt a blow by the council.

Addison Lee, who recently won the contract to operate taxis from the airport, had wanted to introduce a fleet of 30 ‘executive vehicles’ which featured tinted windows and would be exempt from the display of licence plates identifying them as a taxi.

But Luton Borough Council’s taxi licensing panel rejected the move on Monday.

It’s a big blow for both Addison Lee, who have said they are exploring an appeal, but also for the airport.

Luton Airport had consistently said that their decision to replace the Luton Hackney Carriage Association with Addison Lee was so that passengers could see an ‘improved fleet of vehicles’.

And although Addison Lee has said that service levels have already gone up, they conceded the council’s decision not to allow the executive fleet was ‘saddening’.

Dr Michael Galvin, head of regulatory affairs with Addison Lee, told Luton on Sunday: “I was more sad than angry at the decision.

“The case we put to the licensing panel was open and honest and presented in good faith, and we felt we had addressed any issues.

“The thought of going to appeal is not something we usually like doing, but we are exploring that process.”

A spokesman for Luton Borough Council said: “The application to relax the conditions in the Private Hire Operators Licence which would allow the company to operate vehicles with tinted windows and which did not display the licence plate and standard signage was refused.

“Whilst there is no express definition of the term ‘Executive Licence’ the Panel did not consider Addison Lee’s operation to fall within such a category.

“The Panel recognises that certain private hire operators undertake contracts which are more akin to a chauffeur driven car, often using prestige vehicles, being contracted to a specific customer or company and often at the disposal of the hirer for extended periods rather than for single journeys.

“The Panel did not consider Addison Lee’s operation to differ significantly from an ordinary private hire service and serves the general public using the airport rather than any exclusive or separately identifiable customer base.

“Given the similarity with other private hire operators and also to the previous hackney carriage provision at the airport, there was no reason to justify departure from the Council’s policy requiring the grant of a licence with standard operator conditions.

“The standard conditions are imposed for the purpose of protecting customers and the wider public who come into contact with private hire vehicles.

” Accordingly, the application to exempt the Operator from the standard is refused and the standard conditions will remain on the licence previously issued.”

Read more at http://www.luton-dunstable.co.uk/

Tunbridge Wells taxi drivers could be banned from smoking e-cigs

The decision on whether or not to ban Tunbridge Wells taxi drivers from vaping in their vehicles have decided to put their decision on ice.

Council chiefs have decided to hold off until they can ask the public for their views.

The licensing committee at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council unanimously voted to consult people on the matter of e-cigarettes and vaping in hackney carriage and private hire vehicles

It will be part of an already planned Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Policy review scheduled for later this year or next.

Licensing committee chairman Bob Backhouse told the Courier: “Further to complaints from members of the public concerning taxi drivers who have vaped while driving, I was asked ‘is this illegal?’ ‘Is this against taxi regulations?’ We discovered we only had a policy that stops smoking in taxis and obviously in the light of the widespread growth of vaping this needs to be amended.”

He added: “Owing to the fact that we were about to make a public consultation with taxi drivers and members of the public, the licensing committee thought it best to incorporate this issue in that consultation. At the meeting councillors agreed that for people with asthma or other breathing difficulties it was considered anti-social for anyone to vape in a taxi, drivers or passengers.”

Electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, also known as vaporisers, are battery-powered devices that deliver nicotine by heating a solution of nicotine, flavouring, additives and propylene glycol and/or vegetable glycerine (glycerol).

The devices typically consist of a mouthpiece, battery and cartridge or tank containing the nicotine solution.

When a user sucks on the device, a sensor detects air flow which activates a heating element, the atomiser, which heats the liquid in the cartridge so that it evaporates. The vapour delivers the nicotine to the user.

Read more: http://www.courier.co.uk/

Taxi Driver Loses Appeal Case Relating to New Livery

Magistrates have dismissed a taxi driver’s appeal claiming that the Guildford Borough Council’s taxi livery policy amounted to a condition and should be removed from his licence.

At the appeal, held at Redhill Magistrates Court on 5 July, Magistrates found that the reasons for imposing the livery were sound and reasonable, and there was no reason to remove the condition. They also awarded the majority of the council’s costs in defending the appeal, to the amount of £4,500.

Cllr Graham Ellwood, Lead Councillor for Licensing and Community Safety, said: “This case was not a challenge to our overall livery policy and its requirements remain in place for all taxi drivers in our borough. However, I am delighted with the outcome, as the Magistrates have agreed that the reasons for the livery, such as protecting public safety, are sound and reasonable.

“We are now keen to move on from dealing with challenges to the policy and continue with implementing its measures such as the livery and a professional BTEC qualification for all drivers to raise standards and protect the travelling public. I am now looking forward to a liveried fleet of Guildford taxis in the near future.

“I would like to remind drivers that the council will only contribute towards the cost of livery until the 9 July, so drivers should not delay in booking their vehicle in to be liveried.

“We are very keen to engage in discussing practical issues around implementing the policy and I would encourage all members of the taxi and private hire trade to come along to the next Taxi Advisory Group meeting on 20 July at 7pm.”

Mark Rostron speaking on behalf of the Guildford Hackney Association said: “It’s a very disappointing result from the magistrates. They apparently believe that it was necessary for the security of the travelling public that Guildford taxis have to be teal green, and that no other solution would be reasonable.

“Obviously Guildford Hackney Association continue to disagree and we are awaiting the barristers report before we decide on whether to appeal the decision in the Crown Court.

“Additionally, Guildford Borough Council hired a Queen’s Counsel barrister at tremendous cost and persuaded the magistrates that they should charge the taxi driver £6,000 in costs, even though the Magistrates Association and the Justices’ Clerks Society have advised that awarding costs for a licensing appeal should be an exception, not a rule, and that any resident with reasonable grounds for appeal should not be penalised.

“I hope the Guildford public take note of this behavior by the council who seek to enforce a licence livery condition that was not asked for by a single person in their consultation but was instead dropped into the policy at the last minute by a small group of misguided councillors.

source: http://www.guildford-dragon.com/

Derby City Council ‘granted taxi licences to criminals’, report concludes

CRIMINALS were being granted taxi licences by Derby City Council until as recently as last year, a damning report has found.

Between 2012 and 2015, expert auditors found that councillors on the authority’s Taxi Licensing Sub Committee had allowed licences to people with criminal records who had committed offences including “hate crime, harassment, intimidation and making improper comments to young women”.

In one instance, a taxi driver was granted a licence despite “publishing material threatening or intending to stir up religious/sexual hatred”.

In recent times, the auditors found that the authority had taken steps to “strengthen governance in this area”, including ensuring officers were involved in the decision-making process.

But the experts from Grant Thornton said there was evidence councillors “continue to involve themselves inappropriately in operational matters” around taxis.

The city council granted licences to criminals, the report says

The report also blasts the council for its handling of a recent Government-ordered pay review.

The Derby Telegraph had already reported how the work had cost more than £5 million to date after being beset with problems.

The review had been carried out by a company called Aquarius.

But, back in September 2014, the council’s former chief executive, Adam Wilkinson, revealed that “the previous consultants (Aquarius)” were not able to complete their work due to a “contractual issue”.

Councillor Lisa Eldret, responsible for staff matters at the city council, later revealed Aquarius was using the pay review system of a company called Hay without permission. The Aquarius work is now being redone by Hay at an additional cost of £1.2 million to the taxpayer.

Now, the auditors have said that the council had “asked” Aquarius to use the “Hay-based approach” that led to the problem.

Their report says: “It should have been clear as early as September 2013 that asking a firm other than Hay to apply a Hay-based approach would be problematic.”

The report adds that an allegedly politically-motivated decision by councillors around staff pay arrangements, made in 2013, had “meant extra costs of £3 million”.

It says that “according to officers, it was motivated by a political desire to protect refuse workers” in a bid to prevent them striking before an election, though some councillors denied this.

The council said many of the matters reported occurred some time ago and that it had already made a large number of improvements.

Council leader Ranjit Banwait, said: “I am confident many of the issues reported by our external auditors today are in the past; those issues that are more recent in nature are being reviewed and addressed – robust measures are already in place following an extensive overhaul of our governance.”

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