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From Brighton’s Licensing Committee:

“Under the law of the land, private hire vehicles from other areas, including Uber drivers from other areas, are allowed to pick up passengers in Brighton and Hove.

“Likewise any private hire driver based in Brighton and Hove can pick up in any other area. The law is the same for all companies everywhere and this is a matter entirely beyond any council’s control.

The problem of Transport for London (TfL) licensed vehicles and drivers working outside of London is an ever-increasing problem around the country.

London vehicles are being seen in many diverse parts of the country, from Southend, Brighton, Bristol, Liverpool, York, Leeds and the Home Counties as well as at all the major airports around London. The reason these vehicles and drivers are being used is because Uber cannot get drivers from these areas because their standards are currently far higher than London’s.

Against this background Unites Cab Section invited TfL to attend yesterday’s National Taxi Sub-committee meeting to enable our national delegates to highlight the illegal practises taking place by London licensed Uber drivers outside of London and to explain the effect it is having on the local trades.

Unite Cab Section representatives from London, Liverpool and the North-West, Leeds and the North-East, Essex, Brighton and Southampton and the South-East attended the meeting. TfL were represented by the Head of Stakeholder relations, Head of Policy and Head of Compliance. Unite believes that this shows the seriousness with which TfL are treating this that they should send such a strong representation.

It was felt that each area should explain the problems of London licensed vehicles operating in their area. It should be noted that in every one of these licensing areas Uber is a licensed operator and the council has often changed its licensing conditions to allow Uber to operate, such as removing the requirement for vehicles to display the operator telephone number.

Unite’s Leeds representatives explained that all licensed drivers in Leeds must pass a topographical test, driving test and undergo safeguarding (child protection) training. Obviously no London licensed drivers have done any of this, completely undermining the local councils decisions made for the safety of Leeds passengers. They also made the point that the Leeds enforcement officers have no powers to check on the London drivers, such as insurance, vehicle fitness, identity or anything else they would normally check on a Leeds vehicle.

Unite’s Brighton representative explained the way Uber drivers are behaving in Brighton which is dumbfounding and completely illegal. When Uber launched in Brighton they tried to recruit local Brighton drivers but only one driver signed up for Uber so Uber sent Brighton residents to get licensed in London, so they could return to drive in Brighton for Uber.

Many of these drivers had previously failed to meet the standards that Brighton imposes on drivers, they failed the topographical test, the driving test or one of the other criteria. It is a disgrace that drivers that have failed to satisfy standards that the local authority, Brighton, decides are the minimum safety standards that are acceptable for its residents and visitors are allowed to be over-ridden like this.

Unite’s representative showed photographic evidence of the abuses taking place by Uber in Brighton culminating in demonstrating how London drivers are removing their licensing roundel from the rear of their vehicles to stop Brighton licensed drivers from identifying them This is completely illegal and dangerous. It is incredible that they can get away with doing this.

The situation in the South-East was explained and similar experiences with Uber licensed London vehicles was outlined. The recent joint enforcement operation in Runnymede between Runnymede and TfL was highlighted to TfL and suggests a way in which TfL could start to engage with other authorities.

Liverpool told how two London licensed vehicles were escorted out of Liverpool by local drivers who are not going to allow their hard fought standards to be undermined. It was also explained to TfL how London Uber drivers breaking the law could occur big points penalties on their driving licence. It was also explained how the licensing authorities have a ‘concord agreement’ which allows each respective council to inspect the other councils vehicles, something which TfL could investigate.

Finally, our Southend representative told how three drivers who lost their Southend licensed went to TfL and received a private hire licence and are back working in Southend completely although Southend Council decided these drivers were not fit and safe to drive in Southend. Its make a complete mockery of the law.

In response TfL explained the Mayor’s taxi and private hire action plan and how that will raise driver standards within the London private hire trade. They spoke about how the Mayor was committed to raise standards and to stop the abuses that are taking place. He wants to work with other authorities and with Unite to push for tougher common standards to stop the cross-border hiring exploitation that are taking place. He is also pushing for the ability to cap private hire numbers and to obtain a change in the law that compels private hire drivers to only accept bookings that begin or end in their licensed area. TfL also said they would be looking at engaging more with other councils. This is very welcome.

Overall the meeting was a resounding success. The Unite representatives have a much better understanding of TfL’s position and will provide further evidence of licensing abuses and illegal activities to TfL as well as being a conduit to allow better communication between their own licensing authority and TfL.

The TfL representatives spoke about the need for further engagement and for Unite highlighting many of the illegal practises of Uber drivers such as removing the licensing roundels.  The only way we can stop cross-border hiring is to work together and to build a coalition to put pressure on the government to change the law and stop the dangerous practises taking place. Licensing must remain local and accountable. Keep it Local Keep it Safe.

Article by Mike Hedges.

A full report on Unite’s meeting with TfL was published in the Spring issue of Cab Trade News.

Posted by Peter J Rose @peterjrose1

Main image shows TfL management with Unite Cab Section reps outside Unite’s Holborn HQ.

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