The views expressed here are not the views of anyone, ever.
I started last month’s article by writing about the sad passing of Bryan Rowland, this month I feel I must say a little about another colleague who sadly passed away, Pat Connor.
Pat was a stalwart of the Manchester cab trade for over 40 years, well known through his political contacts throughout Greater Manchester and a strong union man through the GMB.
He was one of the founders of the ‘Meeting of Minds’ group and a devoted follower of Manchester United. RIP my friend.
Before Pat was buried news came that another colleague, Ray Tweddle of Streamline Taxis in Hartlepool had also sadly passed away. Ray was a NTA member for many years, attending regional meetings on a regular basis, always smiling and sharing a joke.
Last month I wrote at length about the way the press has seemingly treated that damn app. Ignoring the stories of driver complaints and on occasion completely ignoring some of the horror stories.
This month this line appears to have continued.
Asad Shah, a shopkeeper in Glasgow, appears to have had the audacity to wish Christians a Happy Easter. For this heinous crime, he was brutally murdered, allegedly by Tanveer Ahmed, a 32-year-old private hire driver who was working for the damn app company.
Predictably, the company issued a statement saying, “the car had not been used for any trips in Glasgow”, they also said, “any driver given a private hire licence by Bradford City Council had to pass enhanced DBS disclosure tests”.
Ahmed apparently confessed to his crime on 6th April, the press, predictably, reverted to describing him as a taxi driver, even though he was a private hire driver working for that damn app.
In a former life I was responsible a 50 cab fleet in Carlisle – over the twenty odd years I did this I cannot recall employing a single murderer – if I did, even though I have a very selective memory, I would remember doing so.
The Bury Times during April reported that Bury council had teamed up with that damn app in relation to an event in their borough called Parklife, I’ve been to Bury, Pondlife would be more apt. Irrespective of that bombshell, it would appear that the good councillors of the town seem to believe the public will be safer. They want to be careful making statements like that, it recently cost the damn app company $10 million in California for a similar claim.
The local paper stated, “it is not known at this stage whether its controversial surge pricing will be in place, where riders can pay up to 10 times the price depending on demand”.
It is therefore safe to assume the council negotiated a deal with the damn app company without knowing exactly how much the app company would be charging visitors from the event. My sense of wtf returns once more.
As the damn app company will be presumably using vehicles licensed across the Greater Manchester area, the council have seemingly, (and very effectively), stuck two fingers up at the cabs they license locally. Indeed, if they believe their own licensing officers have any control over vehicles they don’t license, they’re going to be in for a wonderful surprise and potential shenanigans galore.
Another person who deserves to be beaten about the head with a blunt gardening implement is a now former driver of that damn app. Mohamed Mohamoud, 51 of Tulse Hill who was told to pay £1,546 in fines and costs at Hammersmith magistrates’ court for refusing a guide dog.
District Judge Jeremy Coleman found him guilty of breaking the Equality Act 2010, saying: “I listened to the defendant with care but I don’t believe what he said to me.” In other words ‘liar, liar, pants on fire’, which is probably why I was refused a seat on the judiciary.
Although I would love to have seen the defendants face if the judge when sentencing uttered the words, ‘Officers of the court, take this man outside and shoot him!’
Speaking outside court, Ms Sharp (the blind lady), of Roehampton, welcomed the prosecution and vowed never to use Uber again. Sadly, I would think this is exactly what that damn app firm want; it’ll save them asking questions of their ‘partners’.
One really has to throw into question, yet again, the quality of driver the app appears to be attracting, may I be so bold as to suggest a further question relating to guide dogs in their induction courses for their ‘partners’.
The damn app company are not seemingly alone in employing the socially inept, people who need to be tied to a lamppost, naked and beaten about the body with a six iron. Up in Trafford, Asif Raza Syed was prosecuted under equalities legislation at Trafford Magistrates Court on April 8 for refusing to accept a passenger with a guide dog from his operator.
Carrying on, during April a Freedom of Information (FOI) request was answered by the Police in London, it gave rather alarming statistics involving minicab drivers. Between February 2015 and February 2016, there were154 serious sexual assaults (including rape), carried out by Private Hire drivers on passengers.
Elements of the press, well the Evening Standard and Independent Newspapers mainly, then went with the following furious headlines.
“126 cab drivers charged with sexual or violent crimes” stormed the Independent,
“More than 400 London cab drivers charged with crimes last year” fumed by the Evening Standard.
Of course, the culprits weren’t ‘London cab drivers’, the press, showing their usual ignorance and hatred of the cab trade, a level of ignorance which is beyond the ken of even those with single digit IQ’s, chose those headlines quite obviously on purpose.
Talking of wonderful surprises, the Daily Mirror reported on 18th April of a scandal of local government inadequacy. It reported:
“Drivers in South Ribble, Lancashire, have been accused of violating children while carrying out council-funded school runs, according to an interim review of the licensing of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles by South Ribble Council.
The horrifying report – which bears troubling similarities to the Rotherham sex abuse scandal – claims children were being put at risk on their daily commute.
It classes the failure of authorities to vet 44 of its drivers as particularly severe, since a report into the Rotherham attacks had warned 1,400 victims were picked up by taxis from school and children’s homes.”
It is with no sense of conceit I write this, but I have been warning for months in this column, years in other publications, that this type of thing is going to happen.
On one hand, you have licensing departments that have an ever-increasing workload of which taxis and private hire are merely part of the function and are arguably the most important and labour intensive element.
On the other hand, you have over promoted, politically correct feckwits who don’t know their backsides from their elbows.
However, regulatory services face budgetary pressure, like the rest of local government.
Yes, I know licensing Taxi and PH budgets should be ring fenced, but we all know those budgets have been pilfered for years. Indeed, one taxi-licensing budget paid for a firework display and another paid for a taxi rank that wasn’t actually there.
Press headlines telling of huge increases in license fees and numerous local authorities adopting joint regulatory services with adjoining local councils, based on saving taxpayers money are obvious further examples of budgetary pressure.
Officers are in numerous cases given too many delegated powers from often-lazy licensing committees and chief executives, repeatedly to save on the cost of committee meetings, and consequently the adoption of penalty point schemes. Cutting back on paperwork, interviews under PACE and writing reports that may be scrutinized in courts cuts expenditure.
In many cases, licensing departments are understaffed, even a single absence, perhaps due to illness, can dramatically decrease the effectiveness of a licensing department.
I am reminded by a quote from Noam Chomsky;
“That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital”
When you seriously look at it how many of you are thinking, the council cannot run licensing, let’s get a private company to run it?
Overstretched licensing departments do not exactly help themselves.
As I have said and wrote on numerous occasions, if someone from many miles away wants a taxi or private hire license, someone must surely ask why?
Why would this person from Manchester, come all the way to Whitehaven to apply for a taxi license?
Should it not ring a couple of alarm bells? Am I led to believe that licensing officers, after almost 30 years in dealing with them, are all of a sudden not the suspicious type?
Let us not fool ourselves; there is understandable public anger about children being molested and raped by licensed drivers, the damage these drivers do to the reputation of the rest of us cannot be easily repaired.
In everything this and what the previous government has done, be it bringing in the deregulation act or ignoring the ‘out of town’ taxis issue, it has helped create a situation where the public are less safe and licensing departments can be accused of neglect.
It is mooted in certain areas that private companies such as ‘Capita’ should run regulatory services departments, indeed; it is advertised on their website.
Of course, private companies are run for profit, something expressly forbidden in terms of our licenses, but let’s face facts here, since when has something such as this ever-stopped private capital?
I have news for you, it hasn’t, laws are changed.
They are coming for your licensing departments and do you know what? They will get them.
All thoughts of dealing with a local licensing officer, those people you castigate whenever they make an unpopular decision, but are there so you can vent and grass up colleagues, will be gone.
You will be dealing with people miles away, perhaps thousands of miles away, no face, just a voice like when you call telecom to complain, you will pay and if you don’t you’ll lose your license.
I’ve seen the future and now they’re coming for us.