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/

Taxis and private hire vehicles in Milton Keynes break rules more than 1,000 times in a year

A former transport spokesman has been left ‘horrified’ after it was revealed taxis and private hire vehicles breached MOT and other regulations more than 1,100 times in just a year.

Alderman Paul Bartlett, a former Milton Keynes Councillor who represented Stony Stratford for 16 years, submitted a freedom of information request to the council.

The response he got left him shocked as it showed there were 1,140 breaches by Private Hire and Hackney vehicles in Milton Keynes from April 2015 to April 2016.

Mr Bartlett said: “It’s only because of the increasing vigilance of Council Officers and the Chairman of the Licensing Committee that dodgy drivers’ are being pulled off the roads.

“I am horrified by these figures and astounded that following the so-called Taxigate scandal when the Liberal Democrat Mayor sponsored a private hire sex offender so many companies and so many drivers’ simply have not ‘got it’ that they are licensed to provide the public a safe and secure service.”

And Mr Bartlett feels identifying companies who regularly breach the regulations would allow passengers greater control over their journeys.

He said: “It is time that dodgy companies and drivers are named and shamed so that passengers can make their choice on who they choose to ferry them around Milton Keynes.

“Maybe if businesses in Milton Keynes stopped using private hire companies that fail to provide a service that can be guaranteed to be safe the companies and drivers will finally get the message.”

A spokesman for Milton Keynes Council told OneMK: “The Council carries out its duties under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and conducts a vehicle compliance test of all the vehicles it licences either twice or three times a year (on first application and subsequent renewals).

“Once licensed the Council’s enforcement team conducts regular enforcement operations to ensure that those vehicles licensed continue to meet the relevant requirements. The Council’s requirements are published in its Policy and these require the structural safety and mechanics of the vehicle to be above and beyond the legal MOT requirements.

“There are three types of action that the Council can take under the above legislation when a vehicle fails below the standard required by the Council and it depends on whether it is a vehicle with a current licence or without. We will revoke, issue an immediate suspension or issue a delayed suspension where a licence is held or refuse a licence if the vehicle is not currently licensed.

“We therefore record the data in that manner based upon the legal route used and not the actual physical reason for the action. Due to the general request of the FOI we provided the answers in one figure.

“The Council licences just over 1,000 vehicles, all tested two or three times a year. The majority of the 1,140 incidents will follow these checks. As such the vehicle is prevented from being used and not licensed until it meets our requirements. If the vehicle is already licensed then the licence is suspended or revoked until we are satisfied that the vehicle is fit for use.

“There is of course substantial enforcement action taken by the Council which results in road side spot checks by our patrol officer who will issue notices where defects are found on vehicles, and enforcement operations where Council officers in conjunction with the Police conduct road side checks and request vehicles to attend the Council workshop for a full vehicle examination.

“The figures we provided therefore include all routine tests and enforcement action that resulted in refusal, suspension or delayed suspension or enforcement action that resulted in revocation, suspension or delayed suspension. The 1,140 figure does not distinguish between all these different type of vehicle failures but they range from tyres below the legal limit to not displaying smoke signs.

“The figure however is correct for the period of time given.”

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

Taxi seized and four suspended in Rossendale council inspection operation

Operation Spartacus was carried out by licensing and enforcement inspectors throughout the borough

A taxi has been seized and four others issued with suspension notices after Rossendale Borough Council conducted a taxi enforcement exercise.

During the exercise, 20 licensed hackney carriages were stopped and inspected of which four vehicles were issued with suspension notices for faults such as defective lights, defective windshield, unreported accident damage, bald tyres, damaged seat belts and interiors.

Operation Spartacus was deployed by Rossendale Borough Council’s Licensing and Enforcement Unit and Lancashire Police on Saturday, May 14 throughout the Valley.

One vehicle was in such an appalling condition that Lancashire Police had no alternative but to seize the vehicle.

Council officers also issued nine defect notices for further minor faults such as vehicle cleanliness, minor bodywork damage, absent ‘no smoking’ stickers, meter issues, cluttered boot space, wing mirror damage and shabby paintwork.

Five drivers were found to be operating a hackney carriage while not displaying upon them the hackney carriage drivers badge in such a position and manner as to be plainly visible

Coun Steve Hughes, chairman of Rossendale council’s Licensing Committee, welcomed the work.

He said: “This Operation proved a very successful exercise in identifying and suspending non-compliant drivers. There is no excuse for defective lights, filthy vehicles and illegal tyres.

“Taxi drivers are professional drivers and as such they should be carrying out basic checks before, during and at the end of each shift to ensure passenger safety. Failure to wear a drivers badge is extremely serious, it is imperative that the travelling public know that the driver of a hackney carriage has been checked by the Council and that they are licensed, the badge seeks to reassure this and it is illegal to then fail to wear this.”

Tracy Brzozowski, licensing and enforcement manager at Rossendale council added: “We will continue to conduct these inspections regularly. Licensed taxis are regularly tested and further taxi inspections are scheduled to take place to ensure all taxis are safe for customers. The lack of basic maintenance and defects found on some of the taxis was disappointing. A paying customer should always expect a road worthy vehicle.”

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

Swadlincote minicab firm fined for unlicensed driver

A boss at a South Derbyshire minicab firm has been ordered to pay more than £1,300 for operating a private hire vehicle with an unlicensed driver.

The vehicle, which was stopped in Ashby on June 5 last year as part of an enforcement operation being conducted by North West Leicestershire District Council, was being driven by Khawar Sadaf Khan, working for Swad Cars, based on the Sharpe’s Industrial Estate off Alexandra Road, Swadlincote.

When Khan was unable to produce his licence, the case was reported to South Derbyshire District Council as the licensing authority, which established that Khan was not registered as a private hire driver in South Derbyshire.

The vehicle was, however, licensed to Mohammed Afzal, one of the operators of Swad Cars.

When interviewed under caution, Afzal admitted that Swad Cars had allowed Khan to drive the private hire vehicle and given him work without requiring him to produce his licence.

Appearing at Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court, Afzal, of Branston Road, Burton, admitted knowingly operating a private hire vehicle within a controlled district with an unlicensed driver.

The 31-year-old was fined £350 and was told to pay a victim surcharge of £35, as well as costs of £1,000.

At an earlier hearing Khan, 30, of Sunnyhill Avenue, Derby, pleaded guilty by post to driving a private hire vehicle without having a current private hire licence and, in his absence, Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court fined him £300, as well as ordering him to pay £250 in costs and a £30 victim surcharge.

A South Derbyshire District Council spokesman said: “Making sure that private hire vehicles are properly licensed is part of our commitment to upholding safety standards in South Derbyshire.

“Private hire firm operators have a duty of care to their customers and must work with us to ensure they are meeting this requirement.”

More information about private hire licensing in South Derbyshire is available online at www.south-derbys.gov.uk/environment/licences

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

South Lanarkshire Council boss disciplined over taxi contracts awarded to his nephew

The Sunday Herald reports that a senior employee at South Lanarkshire Council has been disciplined after an investigation into over £200,000 of taxi contracts awarded to his nephew.

Peter Henry, who was the election agent for Labour’s deputy leader on the local authority, has been given a written warning following a seven-month probe by auditors.

The Sunday Herald revealed in September that Henry, the council’s passenger services coordinator, had been suspended after an anonymous complaint was lodged.

His job was to oversee transport provision for citizens referred by the education and social work departments.

The complaint centred on payments for taxi services to his nephew Stephen McGhee, who according to the council’s website was awarded around £210,000 since 2013.

The contracts were made via a framework agreement and the individual deals were worth £32,300, £51,244, £19,000, £24,320, £18,300, £31,720, £18,056 and £15,288.

The council’s internal investigation found no evidence of wrongdoing by Henry, but it is understood the local authority believes the family link meant he should not have been involved in the awards.

Henry was given a warning and it is also understood his duties will be re-aligned.

After Henry was initially suspended, this newspaper also revealed the links he and McGhee had to Labour in South Lanarkshire.

Henry was lined up to run deputy council leader Jackie Burns’ Holyrood election campaign, but this never materialised after Burns resigned the candidacy last year.

A leaked email also revealed that Henry and McGhee organised a dinner for Burns on council premises in 2015: “Peter Henry and Stephen McGhee have organised a fundraising dinner dance in the Banqueting Hall at Council Offices, Almada St., Hamilton on Friday, 27th Feb. at 7pm, in aid of next year’s Scottish Parliament election fund.

“This is primarily aimed at a target audience of supporters beyond the Party membership, but any members who would like to come would be very welcome.”

It is also understood that McGhee attended a meeting with a PR company last year about creating a website for Burns’ campaign.

According to Companies House, McGhee is the director of various companies. There is no also suggestion of wrongdoing by Burns or McGhee.

Christina McKelvie, who is standing for the SNP in Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse for the Holyrood election, said: “Not a year goes by that we don’t see yet another scandal at South Lanarkshire Council. The Council needs to examine very urgently how it manages the procurement of services, planning procedures, contracts and more.

“For a Labour-led Council to regard it as perfectly acceptable to award over £200,000 on taxi contracts to a family member is obviously unacceptable.

“The structural advantage the party once had is in smithereens and councillors are now being repeatedly exposed to a very angry public.”

Graham Simpson, a Tory councillor who is also standing in the Holyrood election, said: “My understanding is that this was the subject of a quite forensic internal investigation, which has resulted in disciplinary action being taken. Councils need to ensure they are whiter than white. Sometimes external investigators should be brought in but I am satisfied this is the end of the matter in this case.”

John Wilson, who is contesting the Holyrood election for the Scottish Greens, said: “This case highlights the need for independent scrutiny of council contracts, especially where there are clear conflicts in the awarding of contracts to friends and family.”

A spokesman for South Lanarkshire council said: “I can confirm that disciplinary proceedings have been completed. However, it would be inappropriate to comment further on a personnel matter of this nature.”

McGhee could not be reached.

source: The Sunday Herald

House of Commons – Cross Border Hiring

28th April 2016

Andrew Gwynne Shadow Minister (Health)

Back in 1847 when Lord John Russell was Prime Minister, our taxi licensing laws were developed. We now have a problem in the north-west of England, where one local authority is handing out hackney carriage taxi licences like sweeties. The problem is that with a hackney licence a person can operate as a private hire vehicle driver anywhere in the country, so there are now taxis from that local authority operating as far afield as Bristol without appropriate checks and balances. May we have an urgent debate on how we can bring our taxi licensing regime up to date?

Chris Grayling Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons, Chair, Palace of Westminster (Joint Committee)

The hon. Gentleman makes an important point. I was not aware of the situation that he describes. I will make sure that it is drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State for Transport who I am sure, if he was also unaware of it, will want to look at the matter very seriously.

South Ribble leader forced to speak on taxi driver scandal

The Leader of South Ribble Borough Council has pledged all recommendations from the ongoing review of its licensing function will be implemented.

Speaking at a full council meeting to discuss the issue, Councillor Margaret Smith stressed the independent investigation had yet to be concluded but that the authority had already taken action to act upon its interim findings.

She said: “I want to reassure the residents of South Ribble that nothing matters more to this council than their safety, and in particular that of our children and young people. We acted swiftly as soon as issues relating to the licensing service were brought to our attention and are determined to learn any lessons the report highlights.

“This council is committed to being open and transparent. When we receive the final independent report it will be published in full, which has always been our clear intention. This council is not afraid to open itself up to external challenge, to accept where improvements can be made, and to ensure they are implemented.

“The report which has been publicised over the last week was only ever an interim version. It was certainly not in a suitable format to be shared as widely as it was. It included individual’s names and information that could jeopardise ongoing disciplinary procedures concerning members of staff.

“The interim report has set out a number of recommendations for making sure our licensing service works effectively in the future. We have accepted all of them and have taken them forward.

“The recommendations include a comprehensive exercise to ensure all taxi licence applications have the right documentation in place, and steps to reinforce our staff’s understanding of their role in protecting the public. We will also roll out a refreshed programme of mandatory safeguarding training for all staff over the coming months.

“Over and above the recommendations in the interim report, we have also put in place additional resources, extra checks on taxi licences, reformed our procedures and invested in extra technology to improve the way our licensing service operates. The safeguarding board and the county council have also been given assurances about the swift action we have taken and our commitment to continue working with them and keeping them fully informed.”

Councillors agreed for the scrutiny committee to oversee the publication of the final report, and identify any further lessons that need to be learnt.
Councillor Smith added:

“There is a shared commitment on all sides of the council to public safety. It is important we work together on a cross-party basis to ensure the improvements that may be required in the licensing department are carried out.

“We will put an action plan in place to ensure that any further recommendations from the final report are implemented. I am absolutely determined to protect the public and we will make sure that our licensing functions are absolutely and completely spot on.”

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

Uber drivers licensed with Transport for London are flooding into Bristol for work

Uber cars from London are flooding into Bristol for work, leaving local taxi drivers angry and out of pocket. Dozens of the private hire cars have been spotted taking fares in the city – even though they are licensed in the capital.

Taxi drivers based in Bristol say it is damaging to point they have considered strike action in a bid for authorities to clamp down on the influx.

It is not illegal for Uber drivers based elsewhere to work in Bristol, as long as they fill the right licensing criteria. But Transport for London, which licenses taxis in the capital, said a ‘grey area’ could make it easier for cabbies based in the capital to take jobs in Bristol.

Photos sent to the Post reveal scores of Uber cabs registered to TfL working in Bristol.

“It’s affected everyone’s earnings to a point where I’m probably at least 10 to 15 per cent down on what I was earning last year,” said Bristol-based driver Bill Sawyer, who has been taking fares in the city for 26 years.

“They’re quite clearly working here full time and nothing is being done about it.”

Mr Sawyer, who drives for V Cars and also works for Uber occasionally, is one of dozens of drivers angry that London-drivers are taking fares in Bristol. A WhatsApp group used by more than 250 taxi drivers in Bristol is now being used regularly to point out TfL-licensed cars.

An Uber spokesman said the company, which works in 60 countries, encourages its drivers to work in the authority they are licensed – but ‘does not instruct partners on where they should work’.

He added: “Private hire drivers are able to start or end a trip anywhere in the UK provided that their private hire licence and vehicle licence match the licensed operator that processes their booking.”

Mr Sawyer said he has been picked up by London-licensed drivers when using Uber as a passenger, but that some of those drivers have insisted they are Bristol-based. Striking was ‘a serious consideration’, he said.

A Transport for London spokesman said working between cities is legal ‘as long as the booking goes through’ where a driver is licensed.

“It’s a grey area because you don’t know how the booking is accepted, so if the booking is accepted in London then it’s legal,” he said.

“If a driver is licensed and their vehicle is licensed and the operator is licensed in the same place, they can then operate in other parts of the country. With Uber there is an operating centre in London and as long as a driver and vehicle are licensed they could go and work in Bristol.”

A Bristol City Council spokesman said: “Private hire operators can perfectly legally subcontract bookings between operators.”

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

East Cambs and Fenland taxi drivers protest as they hand community transport funding ‘dossier’ to Cambridgeshire County Council

Allegations levelled by East Cambs and Fenland taxi drivers over community transport funding in the county are to be investigated.

Around 20 drivers from across the area lobbied county councillors at Shire Hall, Cambridge on Tuesday where they presented a 38 page report by a private investigation firm.

Cambridgeshire Bus, Coach and Taxi Association has funded a £1,000 report by Woodgate Investigations into concerns that FACT (Fenland Association for Community Transport) and community transport groups including Ely and Soham Community Transport (EACT) and Huntingdonshire Association for Community Transport (HACT) have been given an unfair commercial advantage over members of the association.

Association leader Dave Humphrey, who has led a three-and-a-half-year campaign to highlight what he terms “the unfairness of the way county council transport contracts are awarded to community transport groups” presented the document to Councillor Ian Bates, chairman of the economic and environment committee and Graham Hughes, executive director of economy, transport and environment.

Mr Hughes said the documents will now be looked at and discussed internally and they will report back on their findings.

Taxi drivers and firms from Fenland and the Ely area helped fund the report following the launch of the association in September last year.

Councillor Paul Clapp said: “If corruption has been carried out by, officers should be sacked and so should councillors.”

Councillor Alan Lay branded the document as “dynamite” and said “the allegations must be thoroughly investigated”.

Gregory Page, director of Woodcote Investigations, whose credentials include being a retired detective with Cambridgeshire police, said in summary of his findings: “It’s my professional opinion the evidence is supportive of a far more in-depth investigation than can be identified to have previously taken place.

“Only such an investigation would give the transparency the documented evidence indicates is needed.”

Wisbech taxi driver, parish councillor Dave Patrick said: “This is a very comprehensive report and the findings now need to be verified as either true or false.”

In the past Mr Humphrey working with two or three fellow taxi drivers have been dismissed as simply being “vexatious” and have been accused of running an “unwarranted and unsubstantiated vendetta”.

Mr Humphrey said: “We were dismissed as just a couple of taxi drivers, that’s why we have employed a professional investigator.”

A Cambridgeshire County Council spokesman said: “The council has been made aware of some potentially serious allegations regarding the misuse of grant funding. “Whilst, we the council, have confidence in the diligence and propriety of its officers, given the nature of the allegations the information provided is currently under review to establish whether further action is warranted.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further at this point.”

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