The Unite Cab Section worked very closely with the Local Government Association (LGA) in opposition to the Tory led Coalition government’s Deregulation Act. We were in total agreement about the dangers to the public of allowing operator subcontracting, in the way the Tories proposed, to become law.
Unfortunately subsequent events have shown how right we were in our opposition. Like Unite the LGA believes that taxi and private hire licensing should remain local and accountable.
Unite Cab Section recently attended a meeting with the Department of Transport (DfT) to discuss, amongst other things, cross-border hiring. The LGA were also in attendance.
At a very frustrating meeting it became clear that the DfT clearly understood that there are huge problems with the abuse of cross-border hirings but equally, that they recognised that the Tory government were unwilling to challenge anything that their friends Uber are doing. The spectre of Cameron and Osborne was very prominent. During the meeting it was clear that the LGA had similar views to Unite regarding solutions to the cross-border issue.
A meeting several weeks later between Unite Cab Section and the LGA allowed us to discuss more fully the issues facing the trade and local authorities in trying to licence drivers and operators who often have total disrespect for the law. Local councils are very much caught in the crossfire between operators trying to dodge the law and regulations that are out-of-date and inadequate to deal with these operators.
Following a very detailed discussion it was clear that there were many issues that we both agreed upon. There are so many safety issues thrown up by cross-border hiring that it is often hard to know where to start. But one in particular has become a real issue. Following the Rotherham child exploitation scandal, many local authorities introduced safeguarding training courses for taxi and private hire drivers.
Many of these courses have been made worthless because drivers are avoiding them by becoming licensed in authorities where the course is not required, and then taking work through cross-border hiring. Picking up work in the local area for which they avoided completing the compulsory safeguarding training. It is a disgrace and desperately needs addressing.
Initially we felt that the following areas would prove popular to start the fight against cross-border hiring. There are lots of other issues to address but the following provide a framework to start from:
- It is essential to have a high level of minimum standards for all taxi and private hire drivers, vehicles and operators. Minimum standards so that authorities can add additional requirements, such as environmental regulations.
- A cap on private hire numbers
- Greater powers for enforcement officers
- Ensuring that drivers can only take a booking that starts or finishes in the area of licensing
Unite Cab Section look forward to continuing our work with the LGA to achieve a licensing system that is fit for the 21st Century and protects the public and drivers from the dangers of out-of-date legislation.
Post by Mike Hedges, Chair Unite National Taxi Committee.