Council Leader Echoes Unite Call for Private Hire Journeys to Start or Finish in The Area they are Licensed for
Councillor Simon Letts, Labour leader of Southampton Council has written to John Hayes CBE MP, the government minister in charge of taxis and private hire at the Department of Transport, to complain about the number of non Southampton licensed private hire drivers and vehicles working in the city.
In his letter, Councillor Letts raises number of safety concerns, with the large numbers of private hire drivers working cross border. And closes his letter by saying that the government should change “current legislation so that all journeys must start or end in the area that has registered the vehicle for private hire”.
The ‘licensed area’ policy has already been outlined by Sadiq Khan in his Mayor of London Taxi and Private Hire Action Plan. It was also amongst Labour’s Wes Streeting’s proposals for the taxi trade in his All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), Lessons from London report on the future of taxi and private hire services in England and Wales. Unite cab section adopted the private hire journey policy at its annual taxi trade conference in March.
Unite’s concerns for unmarked private hire
Earlier this month, Southampton’s Daily Echo reported an incident in which a woman is alleged to have been sexually assaulted and dumped near the M27 motorway after getting into an unmarked car which she thought was a taxi.
Unite the union says people are becoming used to getting into unmarked cars because of all the TfL licensed Uber vehicles that are “flooding” into Southampton.
Perry McMillan, chairman of the Southampton cab section of Unite, told Southampton’s Daily Echo:
“Uber vehicles licensed by Southampton City Council had to carry clear markings but those from other areas often displayed nothing but a small disc in the back windscreen”.
Councillor Letts’s letter is reproduced below…
Dear Mr Hayes,
I am writing to you to raise the issue of public safety with regards the licensing of hackney carriages, private hire vehicles and minicabs.
In Southampton we have adopted a strategy to protect the public, our vehicles are clearly marked differentiating between Hackney Carriages and Private Hire vehicles. Both sets of vehicles have to have a livery that tells them apart from a private motor vehicle as well. We feel this is important in preventing rogue, bogus drivers trying to take advantage of the vulnerable. Additionally in Southampton we require our vehicles to have an on board taxi camera fitted.
Over the last two years we have seen a new phenomenon with a number of private hire vehicles or minicabs licensed by authorities other than Southampton City Council predominantly working in Southampton. Southampton presently licences 283 hackney carriages and around 650 private hire vehicles. We have seen a rapid growth in these vehicles working in the city. The local trade estimate there to be in excess of 120 such cars, the vast majority of which are licensed by Transport for London, other areas include New Forest District Council, Havant, Fareham and Chichester.
None of these authority areas require cameras to be fitted and the Transport for London (TfL) vehicles are only identifiable by small stickers in the front and rear windscreens. This has caused confusion as these TfL vehicles often look just like a private vehicle. Earlier this month a local man took advantage of this confusion and used his private vehicle to lure a vulnerable victim into his car on the pretence he was a licensed private hire vehicle, he then seriously sexually assaulted her. Officers and the local trade believe this only occurred because of the recent influx of TfL cars in Southampton.
The whole regime of taxi and private hire licensing has been undermined over the last two years and local authorities are no longer able to properly protect the public with appropriate measures to address local problems as the local measures are easily circumvented by getting licensed in an ‘easier’ area. Previously the government has suggested it is within the power of the local authorities to address the problem by attaching conditions to vehicles to predominantly work in the area it is licensed. This is reliant on all the authorities agreeing and it being supported in the courts as to date it has not been properly tested. Clearly authorities are not prepared to apply these conditions with a lack of proper support in legislation.
An easy solution is for you as the Minister to amend current legislation so that all journeys must start or end in the area that has registered the vehicle for private hire. Otherwise the next time we have a serious incident in Southampton I will be directing the media interest to your door.
Cllr Simon Letts (Leader of Southampton City Council)
Posted by Peter Rose @peterjrose1