Government department raises concern over Sheffield Council’s new policy on private hire

A Government department has raised concern at Sheffield Council’s changes to its taxi licensing policy.

The Competitions and Markets Authority raised a number of issues as plans were laid out on new policy for private hire taxi firms in the city.

The CMA said they were concerned about new rule restricting drivers to work for one private hire operator and making firms have a permanently staffed helpline based in the city.

The body also said It was ‘not necessary’ to require all firms to offer seven day advance bookings.

CMA acting chief executive Andrea Coscelli, sent a letter to Sheffield Council’s licensing boss Steve Lonnia expressing their worries consumers could end up paying more through the extra restrictions.

But Sheffield Council said they had taken on board the CMA’s and passed the new private hire policy with some amendments.

A CMA spokesman said: “Last year we looked at the Sheffield market and cleared a merger of major taxi/private hire firms because we expected competition from app-based operators.

The letter explains why some planned Council measures may stifle competition without necessarily benefitting consumers.

“It is not necessary to require a permanently staffed helpline within the city – this increases costs for operators, which passengers will then pay for;

“Only allowing owner-drivers to work for one operator means they are all likely to choose the biggest operator, so passengers could end up with only one operator to choose from, and thus there is no competition.”

Councillor Bryan Lodge, cabinet member for the environment at Sheffield Council said: “The Licensing Committee approved a new Private Hire Operator & Vehicle Policy with some minor amendments.

“We listened to the concerns raised against some of the proposed conditions and made changes to the policy to address this. We will continue working with the Government and taxi operators to ensure our residents and visitors feel safe when travelling in Sheffield.”

Letter to council – … -09-16.pdf

Read more at: … -1-8164714

Tories launch crackdown on illegal taxi drivers to cut immigration

Home Secretary Amber Rudd tells Birmingham conference she wants to get tough on immigration

Tories are launching a crackdown on immigrant taxi drivers working illegally in the UK, Home Secretary Amber Rudd has announced.

The profession was singled out by Mrs Rudd in her speech to the party conference in Birmingham, as she promised to “get immigration under control”.

Net migration, currently 335,000 a year, would be reduced to “tens of thousands”, she said.

Mrs Rudd said quitting the European Union would mean an end to open-door migration from Europe – but the Government also wanted to cut immigration from the rest of the world.

And she announced a £140m Controlling Migration Fund to help public services in areas with high numbers of immigrants.

It’s similar to a policy announced by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at his party conference last week.

Setting out plans to cut immigration in her ICC speech, she said: “From December, immigration checks will be a mandatory requirement for those wanting to get a licence to drive a taxi.”

While she didn’t give any explanation of why taxi drivers were being targeted rather than people in any other line of work, the policy only makes sense is if the Government believes there is currently a problem with people who have no right to work in the UK driving taxis.

Other measures include making it a criminal offence for a landlord knowingly to rent out property to people who have no right to be here.

And banks will have to do regular checks to ensure they are not providing essential banking services to illegal migrants.

The Home Secretary announced measures likely to anger employers and universities.

She said the Government is to consider tightening the test companies have to take before recruiting from abroad, effectively making it harder for firms to recruit foreign staff.

Mrs Rudd said: “The test should ensure people coming here are filling gaps in the labour market, not taking jobs British people could do.

“But it’s become a tick box exercise, allowing some firms to get away with not training local people. We won’t win in the world if we don’t do more to upskill our own workforce.”

And she said rules which allow students to work in the UK will be toughened up – for the less prestigious universities.

“Our consultation will ask what more can we do to support our best universities – and those that stick to the rules – to attract the best talent, while looking at tougher rules for students on lower quality courses.”

She insisted: “This Government will not waver in its commitment to put the interests of the British people first. Reducing net migration back down to sustainable levels will not be easy. But I am committed to delivering it on behalf of the British people.”


One in four Londoners fear they won’t get home safely in minicab in early hours, research finds

One in four Londoners fear they will not make it home safely in a minicab in the early hours of the morning, new research suggests.

A quarter of people living in the capital who use minicabs fear a risk to their safety when travelling in one between 12am and 4am, according to a new survey carried out by YouGov.

The survey for the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association revealed that almost half of minicab users in London doubt that they would be fully insured for any injuries sustained if they were involved in an accident.

And nearly a quarter of Londoners who use minicabs began travelling in them more over the last two years, the research found.

The LTDA has criticised popular minicab app Uber after it launched a legal challenge to tough new private hire rules including requiring drivers to pass a basic English language tests and a crackdown on insurance requirements.

Steve McNamara, LTDA general secretary, said: “Today’s figures are yet more proof of the need for action to ensure that Londoners feel safe and secure when using a minicab.

“Uber’s recent campaign for TfL and the Mayor of London to water down the overdue and much-needed update to PHV [private hire vehicle] regulations shows how out of touch they are with public opinion.”

Mr McNamara added: “The regulator must not only follow through on its proposed changes, but must take further action to raise standards across the industry, if it is to fully address passengers’ concerns and offer them, and other road users in the capital, proper protection.”

But Tom Elvidge, general manager of Uber London, said: “More that 2 million Londoners use Uber on a regular basis and because of the convenience and safety the app has brought to the industry.

“Uber is not a traditional minicab firm so it is interesting to note that Uber was not mentioned in this poll.

“Uber keeps a record of all drivers’ insurance documents and drivers cant access the app unless they are in place.

“Uber has helped raise standards in the private hire industry by using technology to give people more information than ever before, from their driver’s details to being able to share a live map of their journey and an electronic receipt showing the route taken.”

The survey of 1,037 adults was carried out last week


Drink-driving Sevenoaks minicab boss fined for operating without a licence

A former Sevenoaks minicab boss has been fined after being found guilty of operating without a licence.

Mohammed Abdul Jabbar, of Glyn Davies Close, was convicted of two counts of the offence at Sevenoaks Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

The 31-year-old was fined £180 per count plus a £20 victim surcharge and £1,200 in costs, totalling £1,580.

Sevenoaks Taxis – the firm he used to run – was ordered to pay £4,600.

Sevenoaks District Council investigated allegations that Jabbar had been collecting fares without a licence and found CCTV footage of him taking fares on 2 and 24 August 2015, despite having his licence revoked for a drink driving offence in January 2014.

Sevenoaks Taxis did not attend court but was found guilty in its absence on three charges at the same court hearing and was fined £500 per count, plus £1,500 in costs and a £50 surcharge totalling £3,050.

A spokesman for the firm has previously said Jabbar is no longer anything to do with the business.

Councillor Anna Firth, Sevenoaks District Council portfolio holder for licensing, says: “We take the safety of the travelling public very seriously and we work hard to ensure drivers are fit and proper people to do the job.

“In this case a driver had no licence so wasn’t insured to pick up the public.

“Our licensing and legal teams worked hard to bring about this successful prosecution and the size of the fine and costs demonstrates the magistrates took the case seriously.

“I hope this prosecution sends out a warning to rogue drivers who are thinking about breaking the law.”

Sevenoaks Taxis has 28 days from the court cases to pay the £3,050 fine and costs. Jabbar has been ordered to pay his fine and costs at £40 a month.


Cumbrian health trust’s taxi bill to be raised with Prime Minister

The taxi bill of almost £600,000 chalked up by hospital bosses in north Cumbria is to be raised with the Prime Minister.

Copeland MP Jamie Reed reacted furiously to news that the NHS trust running Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital and The Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle spent £585,000 on taxis in three years.

That was the bill for nearly 13,000 taxi journeys, used to transport drugs, patient records, and patients.

The spending – revealed in response to a Freedom of Information request from the News & Star – came to light as North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust confirmed it faces a predicted £49.5m deficit.

“This is utterly scandalous,” said Mr Reed.

“It’s a diabolical illustration of the chaos caused by centralising services at Carlisle. “The patient and the taxpayer both lose out. The worst of it is: we told them so. I’ll be raising this with the Prime Minister.

“The government is presiding over a seemingly endless crisis and it must get a grip.”

One Whitehaven based NHS campaigner said a patient sent from the town to Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary recently saw her medical records, crammed into carrier bags, arrive at that hospital in a taxi.

Trust officials rejected the claim, saying drugs and medical records are always sent in secure packages or containers.

The News & Star’s investigation revealed that the trust routinely uses taxis to transport pathology samples, medical records, and patients, with some individual taxi trips costing more than £600.

Managers say patients are sent by taxi if using an ambulance is not appropriate and to beat treatment waiting time targets.

Siobhan Gearing, who started the We Need West Cumberland Hospital Campaign, said: “It’s absolutely ridiculous.

“How can they claim to be in financial difficulty when they’re spending nearly £600,000 on taxis over three years?

“It makes no sense at all. That money would be better spent on the services which, time and time again, they tell us they can’t afford to give us.”

Mrs Gearing, a mother-of-two, who has argued consistently that services at the West Cumberland Hospital should be protected, said using taxis also raised questions about patient confidentiality.

She said: “A lady told me yesterday that she was at The Cumberland Infirmary for an appointment when a taxi arrived there and dropped off three carrier bags filled with her medical records.

“That’s not a professional way to run a hospital.

“A patient’s medical records should only be transported in a sealed, tamper-proof packet. It would make more sense if they employed somebody in the trust to do this work.

“It’s a management failure.”

In its response to our Freedom of Information request, the trust confirmed that 2,800 of the taxi journeys it paid for in the last three years were between the hospitals in Whitehaven and Carlisle.

The most expensive taxi trips, taking patients from Silloth to non-trust destinations, cost £640 and £600 respectively.

The public sector union Unison described the trust’s taxi bill as “excessive”.

But a spokeswoman for the trust said: We have a process in place for using taxis and we only send medical records and drugs in sealed bags and containers. The taxis we use operate under a formal contract.

“It happens in almost all other trusts.”

She added that previous investigations had shown it was more cost effective to use taxis rather than operate a similar service in-house. The practice is regularly reviewed, she said.

A recent centralisation of medical records is expected to reduce the need to use taxis, a statement added.

John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “There isn’t anything wrong with using taxis to fill in the gaps every now and then, but the authorities must make sure they opt for the most efficient option, providing value for taxpayers’ money.

“When families are struggling with ever-rising bills, authorities must do all they can to keep costs down.”


Taxi drivers having to work longer hours to make a living

New research shows both Hackney and private hire drivers in the city have had to increase their working hours over the last three years

Taxi drivers in Liverpool are working harder than ever just to make ends meet, a new study reveals.

The research shows Hackney and private hire drivers in the city , including those working for Uber, travel 27,485 miles a year and take an average of 95 fares a week – up 35 fares since similar research carried out in 2013.

The survey of more than 1,000 drivers across the UK, including Liverpool, was commissioned by taxi insurance broker insureTAXI.

Longer hours

More than a third of respondents in Liverpool said they have increased their working hours over the last three years, with 45% citing increased competition as the reason for clocking up more time on the road.

Half of drivers in Liverpool said they’re working longer hours to make ends meet at home.

In an average week, taxi drivers in Liverpool are now working 43 hours and earning £316, making the average hourly rate £7.35 – £0.65 above the current national minimum wage.

On top of this, the research revealed they can expect an average tip of 68p for each fare. Considering the number of fares taxi drivers take on average a week, this means they could earn around £64.60 in tips each week.

Rising costs

But while the research paints a largely positive picture of taxi drivers’ earning potential, there are a number of costs that taxi drivers regularly incur.

On average, taxi drivers in Liverpool spend £100 a week on fuel, £91 a month on general vehicle maintenance and £1,901 a year on their taxi insurance – totalling an average of £8,193 of expenditure each year.

The rising cost of being a taxi driver is a concern for a number of taxi drivers in Liverpool, with 35% stating it’s the biggest threat to their profession.

And 28% think the increase in competition is the biggest threat, while 17% of non-Uber drivers think Uber is the biggest threat.

Increasing demands

“Speaking to over 1,000 taxi drivers has given us a real insight into the demands and challenges faced by our customers,” explained Tim Crighton, marketing director of insureTAXI. “Taxi drivers are having to work longer hours in order to combat the increase in competition and changes in consumers’ lifestyles.

“What’s more, the associated costs of being a taxi driver is a real concern to some – especially when they feel that there isn’t as much business available as there was a few years ago.”


Hazzard announces immediate review of taxi legislation

Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has announced that a full and comprehensive review of the current taxi legislation is set to get underway.

The Minister took the opportunity to make the announcement at his first meeting with representatives of the recently formed Northern Ireland Taxis (NIT) group.

Minister Chris Hazzard said:

“Much work has already been carried out to help build a safe and professional taxi industry that benefits the hundreds of operators, drivers and administrative staff who work in the industry and to the hundreds of thousands of people who use taxis regularly.

“There are still many challenges ahead, however, I am determined to support and grow the industry through legislation that protects the industry itself and its customers.

“Metering remains a central plank of how taxis will be regulated in the future and current requirements remain in place.”

The Minister is aware of concerns around licensing classifications for taxis and reiterated that Class C is intended for use by, for example wedding, funeral and novelty vehicles and not as a general taxi class. He made it clear that he will be moving promptly to resolve the matter.

The Minister continued:

“To help inform and develop this work I have asked officials to establish a Taxi Advisory Group as soon as possible.”

The review will take into account the views of local operators and drivers, as well as those of the general public and other key stakeholders. New proposals are expected to be brought forward for public consultation in spring next year.


Mayor quadruples team tackling illegal taxi and minicab activity

Sadiq Khan has committed to a dramatic expansion of the Transport for London (TfL) team responsible for tackling touting and illegal activity affecting the Capital’s taxi and private hire trades.

As part of a concerted drive to improve customer safety, an extra 250 Compliance Officers will be recruited and deployed over the next year to patrol London’s streets and crack down on illegal activity and improve safety. The Mayor’s move quadruples the size of a team which provides a highly visible, uniformed presence in the West End, City and other areas across London.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said:

‘I want Londoners to feel safe when they take a taxi or minicab and that is why I have approved a major increase to the size of our team that targets touts and illegal activities. It is the first part of a wider programme I will be introducing that will drive up standards in the industry and help our world famous cabbies continue to thrive.’

Steve Burton, TfL’s Director of Enforcement and On-Street Operations, said:

‘Illegal minicab activity not only poses a serious risk to passenger safety but undermines licensed, law abiding taxi and private hire drivers. This welcome boost to our enforcement team provides Londoners with additional reassurance and also sends a message to those not complying with the law that they will be caught and dealt with robustly.’

Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, said:

‘This is fantastic news for Londoners and the black cab trade; it is so refreshing to have a Mayor who recognises the danger posed to the travelling public by illegal minicab activity and is prepared to act to ensure their safety. We welcome this substantial increase in compliance officers, and look forward to working with Sadiq in the future.’

The new officers will be funded through changes to private hire operator licensing so that larger firms pay a greater share of the costs of enforcement.

TfL and its partners regularly carry out operations to deter and disrupt illegal minicab activity in the Capital and protect the public from touts. Operation Neon is a joint operation between TfL, the Metropolitan Police Service and Westminster City Council that takes place every weekend. An operation running between May 2015 and July 2016 has seen the following results:

Operation Neon results:

  • 127 Operations
  • 9699 private hire drivers advised and moved on to keep roads clear for taxis and booked private hire cabs.
  • 448 private hire drivers were reported for not having a badge and were stopped from working for the remainder of the evening.
  • 5116 private hire drivers were reported for not wearing their badge.
  • 65 private hire drivers reported for plying for hire offences.
  • 1265 private hire drivers reported for parking on taxi ranks.
  • 2916 Parking tickets issued.

Today’s announcement is the first part of a comprehensive strategy overseen by the Mayor that will herald in a new era for the Capital’s taxi and private hire trades. It will deliver radical improvements for customers, a boost to safety, support for the taxi trade and further improve the quality of service offered by the private hire trade. There will also be a concerted effort to make the Capital’s taxi fleet the greenest in the world.

This activity will sit alongside improvements already underway following TfL’s review of Private Hire Regulations. From 3 October this year all taxis in the Capital will be required to accept card payments, including contactless, to make services even more accessible to the public.


Fife councillors welcome first electric taxi

Councillors have welcomed the first electric taxi to Fife’s roads – and have hailed the success of Fife Council’s ECO Stars scheme.

Aitch Taxis, one of the scheme’s members, has become the first company in Fife to start using an electric car as a private hire vehicle.

Councillor Bob Young, chairman of the regulation and licensing committee, said: “The ECO Stars scheme encourages operators to run their vehicles in the most efficient way, which reduces carbon emissions as well as their own running costs.

“Cleaner air is good for everyone and 22 operators – running 111 vehicles – have joined the scheme so far, showing they’re committed to reducing air pollution in Fife.

“I’d like to congratulate Aitch Taxis for putting us on the road to a cleaner environment and hope others will follow their lead. Electric vehicles don’t emit any pollutants while they’re in use so they can play an important role in tackling climate change and improving local air quality.”

Cllr Young added Fife had an excellent network of chargers that anyone can use if they were considering switching to an electric car.

There are 19 charging points for electric vehicles, including three rapid chargers. These are available for the public to use at long stay car parks in town centres and at public transport interchanges such as railway stations.

The three rapid chargers can be found at Petheram Bridge car park, St Andrews; Bankhead Central (visitors car park), Glenrothes; and Halbeath Park and Ride.


Daimler to take stake in UK taxi app Hailo

The Ft reports that Daimler will increase its drive into the world of car booking services by taking a stake in Hailo, the UK taxi app.

The owner of Mercedes-Benz will announce a deal to partner with the service as early as Tuesday, according to people briefed on the matter, write Peter Campbell in London and James Fontanella-Khan in New York.

It already owns MyTaxi, a German company it bought in 2014 that links consumers to nearby taxis.

The deal will be the latest advancement by automakers into ride booking services, which many in the industry believe may be the future of urban transport.

General Motors has made a $500m investment in US group Lyft, Volkswagen has taken a $300m stake in Israeli app Gett, and Toyota has announced an undisclosed investment in Uber.

These deals allow the car makers to develop on-demand services and share technology with the app groups.

They also propel the car groups to the front of the queue to sell vehicles to taxi operators or minicab drivers, in a time when personal ownership is expected to dwindle in city centres – especially among younger people – and be replaced with a greater number of “on demand” services.

The founder of Gett, Shahar Waiser, has predicted that within a decade, half of all journeys made will be using a vehicle summoned by an app.

While services such as Gett and Hailo link consumers with taxi drivers, Uber has its own drivers who do not have to be members of a taxi group.

Hailo, which launched in 2011, has not been without setbacks in its journey so far, and has been seeking a strategic investor for some time.

The company, which has raised around $100m to date, pulled out of the US and Canadian markets in 2014 after saying that strong competition from Uber and Lyft rendered it unprofitable. At the same time, Jay Bregman, co-founder and co-chief executive, left the company.

Its current investors include investment group Accel, Wellington Partners and Sir Richard Branson. The group continues to operate in cities across Europe including London, Madrid, Barcelona and Dublin.

In 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available, Hailo Network Holdings Limited reported a pre-tax loss of £10m.

Hailo and Daimler were not immediately available for comment. The planned investment by Daimler was first reported on the Sky News website.