Taxi drivers must ‘pass route tests, have good English’ and told to adopt dress code

Taxi drivers in Sandwell will have to pass a tougher test proving knowledge of the area, good English – and will also have a dress code.

The rules on clothing, footwear and personal hygiene has been branded ‘ridiculous’ by taxi chiefs.

They will also be required to undertake training on issues around child sexual exploitation and disability as part of the new Sandwell Council rules.

There will also be ban on tinted windows and the council says it will no longer be accepting driving experience in other countries.

Prospective cabbies must have held a full UK licence for two years and will have to pay for the suitability test.

Existing drivers with serious criminal offences are to have their licences reviewed by the council’s licensing committee.

Shaz Saleem, of the West Midlands Taxi Drivers Association, said: “Some of the ideas in these new policies are ridiculous.

“Having a dress code is ridiculous. That has nothing to do with customers’ safety. That is not going to make any difference.”

Mr Saleem welcomed improvements to the knowledge test, but said drivers should not have to pay extra as it should be part of the licence.

Councillor Preet Gill, cabinet member for public health and protection, said: “The public’s safety is at the top of our priorities.

“Something which I think is really important is that they will now have to go through CSE training.

“We have started rolling it out gradually but it will now be something they all have to do.”

The current verbal knowledge test requires the applicant for a drivers licence to answer 10 questions based on the law and conditions attached to the licence.

Any applicants must answer eight questions correctly in order to pass the test, and must do so within three attempts.

But this current knowledge test does not contain any arithmetic, Highway Code, or location questions and is described in the report as ‘weak.’

The tinted windows rule does not apply to limos or those vehicles already fitted with them prior to the new rules.


Cab drivers hold protest outside Luton Town Hall

Hackney and private hire drivers protest outside Luton town hall yesterday morning

MORE than 50 drivers attended a protest outside Luton Town Hall yesterday over safety issues and the ‘unfair’ issuing of licenses.

The protest was organised by Luton Hackney Carriage Association and Luton Borough Drivers Union with the aim of raising a number of longstanding issues they have had with Luton Borough Council.

In a jointly released statement the two groups raised their concerns, which include fears the public could be at risk from drivers who are operating in Luton but not under the jurisdiction of Luton Borough Council (LBC).

Mushtaq Ahmed, chairman of Luton Borough Drivers Union, said: “We wanted to show our anger about how Luton Borough Council are turning a blind eye to us.

“The next step is to arrange a meeting with Luton Borough Council so we can hear their side.

“Any further protests will be subject to the outcome of the proposed meeting.”

The statement released by the two groups read: “Drivers suspended by Luton Borough Council for serious offences are back working in Luton with Uber.

“[The] council is ignoring the lessons of Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation Case which involved taxis and minicabs working unchecked outside their licensed zones.

“Lack of enforcement increases public vulnerability; Councillors and Licensing Enforcement will be held directly accountable for any unfortunate incident as they have been repeatedly warned about this risk.”

Other areas of concern which have been raised are:

Accusations that Central Bedfordshire-based drivers have been granted licences to operate in Luton

That licensed Luton drivers are being forced out of the profession by drivers who don’t pay money to the council

That more drivers who are coming in from elsewhere lack the local knowledge that the licensed drivers do

A spokesman for Luton Borough Council said: “The council is always happy to engage constructively with local businesses and is ready to offer assistance, advice and share information with representatives from the town’s taxi trade.

“We are already putting plans in place to invite an independent legal adviser to speak on some of the issues raised by the drivers and hope to be able to continue a positive dialogue with them in the future.”


Cabbie fined after he refused to pick up blind man and his guide dog

A cruel cabbie who refused to pick up a blind man and his guide dog has been hit with a £600 fine.

Taiwo Osazuwa was called to pick up the disabled man from Asda in Eastlands , but wouldn’t let the dog in his car when he arrived.

The Hackney carriage driver was hauled before the courts after being charged with breaking laws under the Equality Act, which specifically require taxi and private hire drivers to carry guide and other assistant dogs.

Osazuwa, 59, knew the man had a guide dog before he arrived at the Asda store after his operator sent him to the job on June 3.

The man subsequently called another taxi firm and he and his dog were picked up without incident.

Osazuwa pleaded not guilty to breaking equality laws at Manchester Magistrates’ Court.

He found guilty and ordered to pay a £65 fine, £500 costs and a victim surcharge of £35.

Osazuwa holds a Hackney carriage licence with Rossendale council, but was working for a Manchester private hire firm at the time of the incident.

Town hall bosses in Lancashire will now call him to a hearing to see if he is worthy of keeping his Hackney carriage driver licence.

Manchester council’s neighbourhoods chief Nigel Murphy said: “We expect the highest standards from all taxi and private hire drivers operating in Manchester and will not tolerate anything less that exemplary behaviour.

“Assistance dogs are indispensable for many people with visual impairments allowing them a level of independence that might otherwise be impossible.

“So it is vital that both Hackney and private hire vehicles allow passengers with assistance dogs.

“I hope the severity of this fine reminds all drivers of their responsibilities.

“Unfortunately this problem often goes unreported, so I’d ask that anyone who has faced a similar issue to report it to us.”


Uber drivers refused to take man with guide dog 14 times

A partially-sighted man says he has repeatedly been refused taxis operated by private hire firm Uber because he travels with a guide dog.

Saleh Ahmed, from Balsall Heath, Birmingham, gets a cab to New Street Station every day on his way to work in Worcester.

He said he had been left feeling humiliated by the rejections.

Taxis are obliged to take people with guide dogs. Uber said it had barred the drivers involved.

Mr Ahmed said the latest refusals happened on Monday.

“I gave the driver a ring and explained I have a guide dog,” he said.

“He instantly cancelled the ride and I was charged a cancellation fee.

“I was refused four times by Uber that night. One of the drivers did turn up, but drove off when he saw the dog.

“It’s really disappointing. This has happened to me at least 14 times. It makes me feels humiliated.

“It stresses me out just to know that I can’t book a taxi like everybody else does to get from A to B.”

Uber said it was “totally unacceptable” for drivers to refuse to take a guide dog.

“Licensed private hire drivers must carry service animals in their vehicle and we remind all drivers of this legal obligation before they start using the Uber app,” it said in a statement.

“Any driver who is found to have refused to take a service animal will permanently lose access to the Uber app and risks having their private hire licence taken away.

“The two drivers complained about by Mr Ahmed have been barred from using the app and won’t be allowed back if the complaint is upheld.”


Minicab driver fined for refusing to pick up 71-year-old blind woman and guide dog

A minicab driver who refused to pick up a blind 71-year-old woman and her guide dog, leaving them stranded, has been fined.

Samim Yakubi was worried the dog would urinate or leave hairs in his car after he arrived to pick them up in Wolverhampton on October 4 last year.

The 40-year-old was working for Wednesfield Radio Cars as a private hire driver when the incident happened. The company had already been told that Rita Nicholls would be travelling with her dog Charlie when Yakubi was dispatched.

Magistrates fined Yakubi £80 and ordered him to pay costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £30 after he pleaded guilty to breaching the Equality Act.

City of Wolverhampton Council said Yakubi went to the arranged pick-up location in the city’s Market Street but when he realised the customer had a dog he said there had been a mistake and left without them.

Yakubi was interviewed under caution by council officers. He then admitted he had lied to Nicholls, saying the actual reason he left was because he was worried the dog would urinate in his car and leave hair inside.

Steve Evans, from the council, said: “This was discrimination, plain and simple.

“I find it despicable that a private hire driver, who is there to provide a service to everyone, would abandon a blind passenger because he didn’t want a guide dog in his car.

“Yakubi knew he was breaking the law, all drivers undergo disability awareness training, but he went ahead and did it anyway, motivated by purely selfish reasons.”


Glasgow PH driver loses appeal against licence ban after allegedly assaulting passenger

A private hire driver’s attempt to regain his private hire licence was quashed after he was suspended for allegedly assaulting one of his passengers.

Daniel Hughes appealed the decision made by Glasgow City Council’s licensing board to immediately suspend his licence after police made the committee aware of the alleged incident which took place on New Year’s Day.

The 56-year-old denied the charge against him at the licensing board.

However members decided to uphold their original decision.

Mr Hughes was charged for allegedly assaulting a man on New Year’s Day after the passenger was sick in his car at about 2am on January 1.

The police report of the incident said that the male passenger, who was accompanied by two female passengers, became unwell and was sick into his hands.

But some of the sick fell on the car’s interior.

Mr Hughes then shouted at the male and demanded that he pay £50 to cover the clean-up cost.

The sick passenger offered to clean the mess but Mr Hughes refused.

The report goes on to say the car was stopped after the passenger refused to pay the cost of cleaning the car and then got out – saying to the people he was with that he still felt unwell.

It was then Mr Hughes allegedly got out of the car, pushed the passenger over and kneeled on the passenger’s chest and punched him on the face.

Then, after other passengers restrained him, he went back to his car, retrieved a metal flask and allegedly struck the sick passenger to the left side of his face.

After the incident Mr Hughes drove away from the scene.

The male passenger attended hospital the following day where he was informed he had suffered from concussion as a result of the incident.

After a police investigation, Mr Hughes was charged with assault.

Although he has been charged, he has not been convicted with the case still to go before the courts.

The committee voted by five to two to suspend his licence for the time he had left on his three year licence.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said: “The Licensing Committee has a responsibility to ensure the safety of passengers using licensed vehicles.”


Ipswich minicab driver stole teenager’s phone after illegally touting

An Ipswich minicab driver has been convicted of touting for business and stealing a £450 phone belonging to a teenage girl he illegally picked up at Cardinal Park.

Valdet Miftari, of Compair Crescent, Ipswich, was also found guilty of plying for trade when not licensed as a public Hackney carriage and having no insurance for his Volvo V50, after a trial at the town’s magistrates’ court.

The 29-year-old denied all the charges.

On April 29, 2016 two teenage girls left Unit 17 nightclub in Cardinal Park between 2.30am and 2.45am, having booked a cab home through Hawk Express.

There were several cabs waiting for customers.

One of the women approached drivers to find the vehicle they had booked.

The third driver she approached was Miftari, a self-employed licensed private hire driver, working for Hawk Express.

The court was told he offered to take the women home, but when they got into his cab he asked one of them to call his office and cancel the booking, telling them to say ‘my mum had picked us up’.

It was claimed Miftari suggested stopping at a kebab shop on Norwich Road because he had heard the teenagers say they were hungry.

Miftari offered to wait inside for the food order, while the teenagers went to wait in his car.

One of the girls left her mobile phone on the counter. The prosecution said that out of the view of staff Miftari covered the phone with his arm, and then put it in his pocket.

After arriving home one of the teenagers realised she had lost her £450 phone. She contacted Hawk Express in the hope of recovering her phone, but Miftari had not been booked by the company.

The teenager went to the kebab shop and took a copy of its CCTV to the police, who identified Miftari’s Volvo.

She also went to Ipswich Borough Council as the licensing authority for taxis and minicabs.

A minicab driver invalidates his insurance if he touts for trade.

It was established Miftari had no reason to be in Cardinal Park. Miftari claimed he gave the teenagers a free lift home out of kindness, because they had been waiting in the cold, and he did not charge them for the journey. He admitted he took the phone, but said he had handed it back.
Miftari will be sentenced on March 21.


New drive to stop taxis polluting Birmingham city centre

The city’s licensing chief Barbara Dring calls on taxi trade to shut off engines in a bid to help the city meet its clean air targets.

Taxis drivers who leave the engine running and pumping out pollution while waiting in city centre ranks are to be targeted by a new campaign.

The city’s licensing chief Barbara Dring has called on the taxi trade to make an effort to shut off engines in a bid to help the city meet its clean air targets.

But she has admitted it will be difficult to enforce such a measure with fines or bans and instead hopes drivers will turn off their engines voluntarily if prompted by warning signs.

It is estimated that 520 people in Birmingham a year die prematurely as a result of poor air quality and the council has been warned it faces a £60 million fine if it does not tackle pollution.

Measures already being looked at include a city centre Clean Air Zone in which high-polluting lorries, vans and buses will be charged, and controversial new restrictions to reduce the age of licensed taxis and minicabs – getting cleaner and greener vehicles on the roads.

Taxi drivers groups are up in arms over the plans, to be introduced in December. to replace the age limit from 14 years to a new emissions test which more than 500 cars would fail.

Now licensing chiefs are also looking at warning signs in lay-bys, taxi ranks and outside schools to get waiting cars to stop idling.

Cllr Dring (Lab, Oscott) said: “Taxis are among the worst for emissions when they stand and have their engines running.

“We are in talks with regard to the trade clean air act and this is one of the things we will be addressing.

“We have the right to ask any car to turn off their engine while stationary and we are looking to enforce this especially around New Street Station.”

She highlighted Sundridge Primary School in Kingstanding which has put up warning signs for waiting parents. “This is something which could be done across the city.”

And suggested that New Street Station, where taxis spend a long time waiting, could provide a warm waiting area for drivers to reduce the temptation to keep engines running in the winter.


Taxi driver convicted for charging ‘extortionate amounts’

A former taxi driver, operating in Surrey, has been convicted of grossly overcharging customers.

41-year-old Firoz Mohammed, of Gabriel Close in Feltham, has had his licence revoked.

He charged six vulnerable adults between £10 and £15 EACH for a journey between Staines Train Station and Shepperton.

Following his conviction on 14 charges, Mohammed was given six points on his licence and fined £180 for having no insurance.

He was further fined £650 for breaching taxi licensing bye-laws, a victim surcharge of £20 and costs of £1,000.

He also had his Spelthorne hackney carriage licence revoked.

Councillor Robin Sider, Chairman of Spelthorne Council’s Licensing Committee, said: “I am very pleased with the outcome and would particularly like to thank the witness, without whose clear evidence this case would not have been able to proceed.

“Mr Mohammed took advantage of vulnerable adults by charging them an extortionate amount for a journey of just a few miles.

“He also put them at risk as his insurance was invalidated. The council takes this type of dishonest behaviour very seriously and I hope the outcome of this case serves as a deterrent to others.”

Taxi driver loses licence after judge rules he was not a fit and proper person

Taxi driver loses licence after judge rules he was not a fit and proper person
Peter White, from Billingham, had his taxi licence revoked after being told he had a previous conviction which he failed to disclose

Peter James White, from Billingham , has had his licence revoked after a judge at Durham Crown Court endorsed a council view that he was not a fit and proper person to hold a taxi licence.

White, 40, of Tempest Court, Wynyard was also ordered to pay the council’s costs of £3,888.

The judge agreed with the Durham County Council committee that White was not a fit and proper person to drive taxis and its decision not to renew his licence

The local authority had initially made its ruling after hearing of a previous conviction which was considered relevant to White’s suitability to be licensed.

The committee had also based its decision on White’s failure to declare the previous conviction to the authority and complaints of aggressive behaviour towards council and enforcement officers.

A second man, Trevor Stark, 48, of Hawthorne Close, Langley Park had had his licence revoked by the authority after it found he too was not a fit and proper person to drive taxis as a result of previous convictions.

The two had then appealed the decision to Peterlee magistrates which ruled they should both be able to hold a licence.

But, unhappy with that decision, Durham County Council then took the case to the crown court which found in its favour.

Speaking after the hearing Joanne Waller, Durham County Council’s head of environment, health and consumer protection, said: “We are satisfied with the ruling of the crown court judge in these cases.

“When deciding whether someone is fit and proper to drive taxis, it is only right that we consider convictions which might impair their suitability to be licensed.

“These could include road traffic offences such as speeding or breaching laws which prevent drivers plying for hire.

“We were always confident in our original decisions which took into account the drivers’ previous misconduct, the taxi licensing regime, the relevant legislation, our licensing policy and relevant case law.

“We will continue to take our duty of deciding who is fit and proper to drive taxis extremely seriously.”

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