‘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/

Taxi driver in court for four-mile detour on four-mile journey

A taxi driver took a passenger wanting to travel on a four-mile journey in the Black Country on a detour to Birmingham – costing them twice the fare, a court heard.

Talbraiz Ali, 35, was asked by his customer to go from Cape Hill in Smethwick to Sandwell and Dudley railway station.

But instead, Ali, who was working for 247 Cars and had only been a taxi driver for 28 days, took the passenger to Harborne and then charged £15 for the trip – over double the expected fare of £7.

Ali, of Minstead Road, Erdington, pleaded guilty to a charge of unnecessary prolonging of a journey by hackney carriage at Sandwell Magistrates Court yesterday.

Mr David Elliot, prosecuting on behalf of Sandwell Council, explained that a man called for a taxi from 247 Cars from the McDonald’s at Cape Hill, Smethwick, which arrived driven by Ali five minutes later on December 9.

Asking to be taken to Sandwell and Dudley Railway Station the passenger was surprised when, instead of turning right as expected, Ali turned left towards Birmingham instead.

“He asked the driver where he was going, who said that he wanted to avoid the traffic. The passenger asked him to turn around, and he took a right,” said Mr Elliot.

However Ali proceeded to take more and more of a diversion, repeatedly ending up on the Hagley Road, and also driving through Harborne High Street at one point.

Eventually the taxi driver succeeded in getting to the railway station and the passenger was charged £15 for the trip.

Apart from the initial remarks, there was no conversation between the pair during the longer than expected journey, and the passenger also noted that there was no sat nav.

The court was told that Ali had only started driving a taxi in Sandwell in November 2015.

Mr Elliot added that it would be up to the council’s licensing committee to determine to what extent they would penalise Ali, whether that be a warning or losing his license in the borough.

Representing Ali, Mr Michael Wooldridge said: “This is an unfortunate matter, and so odd that it defies any logical explanation.”

Mr Wooldridge stressed that his client had only been a taxi driver for 28 days, and that this was his second job, with his main employment being at a factory.

Mr Wooldridge added: “He took a wrong turn at the start and it all went from there. It is not a case where he has deliberately gone around the houses.”

He also highlighted that Ali had limited English.

Ali received a 12 month conditional discharge and was also ordered to pay costs of £250 and a victim surcharge of £15.

Read more at http://www.expressandstar.com/

Nationwide drive for new taxi laws

A SURVIVORS’ group which helped tighten taxi rules in Rotherham after the child sex scandal wants stricter laws across the UK.

The Rotherham CSE Steering Group is writing to all councils in the country, urging them to take a similar stance with licensing.

New rules imposed by commissioner Mary Ney mean the majority of the borough’s cabs will need cameras and audio kit by July 6.

And “Katie”, a member of the steering group which advised RMBC, said: “We are now putting together a national plan to help prevent and reduce CSE.

“Part of our plan will be covering licensing policies, including taxis to make it safer for all passengers and drivers.

“We are contacting all councils throughout the UK to put our suggestions in place as we feel this can reduce all forms of crime.”

The steering group was consulted by Rotherham Borough Council on licensing changes explored after the Jay report highlighted the “prominent” role of taxis in CSE.

Now members — aiming to be heard by other authorities — have held meetings with Kirklees Council in Huddersfield, North Yorkshire County Council and spoken at a multi-agency event in Durham.

On Wednesday, they met Sheffield Council officials and group member “Jessica” said: “We’ve had some positive responses.

“I think they need to have stricter taxi licensing.

“Some drivers who are not happy about the cameras are moving to Sheffield or Barnsley for their plates but still operating in Rotherham.

“Why are people going to these lengths? The cameras are not going to be for child sexual exploitation, it could be an assault of a driver, anything.

“The main thing that we were fighting for with taxis is CCTV and audio. This is not just a problem for Rotherham, so it’s something we wanted to put in the national plan.”

RMBC’s new policy means all journeys must be video recorded, with audio activated when the passenger is a child or vulnerable adult. Drivers are unable to access footage.

The steering group has called for further measures to be introduced, including glass separating minicab drivers from passengers, a ban on under-16s in the front seat and enhanced DBS checks on drivers.

Jessica said: “People in our group like to put their ideas forward, but we’re all at different stages, so not everyone’s ready or feels strong enough to do meetings or conferences.

“At our art therapy group we have about 20 people but it’s a smaller core who are involved in the national plan.

“I’ve made friends in the steering group with people who I now speak to every single day.

“We want to tackle CSE from every angle, but that will take years to do.”

Rotherham drivers whose renewal date falls after July 6 have until they submit a new application to install the required equipment.

RMBC says this affects 150 of 780 vehicles.

The steering group can be contacted on RSG1400@mail.com.

source: http://rotherhamadvertiser.co.uk/