Sunday, December 17, 2017

Why Haven't TfL Got A Chief Licensing Officer Like Nottingham City Council's Richard Antcliff ?

A sting operation in the city centre saw 15 touting Private Hire drivers caught in the space of just one hour.

Now ask yourself "how many touts were caught in London's West End last night ? "

Nottingham's licensing boss says it is "a game of cat and mouse" to catch them in the act.

Richard Antcliff, chief for licensing at Nottingham City Council, says a 'cohort' of around 200 drivers use social media messenger service Whatsapp to keep the council off their tail.

If an illegal driver spots a council or police officer then a message is pinged out to avoid that area so they aren't caught and prosecuted.

On Friday evening in Nottingham city centre, the Post went undercover with licensing boss Mr Antcliff to evaluate the scale of the problem.

In just over one hour, 15 drivers were caught picking up customers illegally. One left his vehicle outside a bus stop to issue a tirade of abuse, and another sped off before his details could be taken.

The 15 caught are now going through the system but face possible penalties including a fine or losing their badge.

The council’s licensing team are targeting drivers who obtain private hire licences from other councils and then 'tout' for business - also known as ‘plying for hire’ - on the streets of Nottingham.

The majority of the 15 caught on Friday evening had their licences issued in Gedling. Private hire drivers from Gedling can drop off in the city, but the problems arise when they then try to pick up passengers.

Under legislation, private hire vehicles may only pick up passengers when pre-booked, rather than from a rank or being hailed down like a city hackney cab.

However, Mr Antcliffe says around 200 PH drivers are regularly breaking the law.

Richard Antcliff, head of licensing for Nottingham City Council.

Other offences committed by illegal drivers include not setting the meter, charging high prices, and leaving the passenger uninsured if an accident was to occur while in the vehicle.

Mr Antcliff says that illegal touts are putting the public at risk – with a small minority using their cover to commit serious crimes.

He said in the last six months the city has got "out of control" and more enforcement work is needed to ensure that illegal touts are driven out of Nottingham.

The council runs one operation a month, but has a team of two on the streets each night.

Around 40 drivers have been caught so far this year and prosecuted - but Mr Antcliff says this is just the "tip of the iceberg" if they had more resources.

He says that in the last two years, eight rouge privat hire drivers plying for hire, have committed serious offences including rape, sexual touching, conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs, grievous bodily harm and indecent exposure. They have all lost their  PH Licenses and Badges.

      Taxis in Nottingham city centre

He told the Post: "It is all money-related, and on occasion more sinister. It is cash in hand, the operator is not taking a percentage and there is no meter.

"The criminal cases we have seen are just the people who have come forward, but there will be other victims who have been ripped off on the meter, been a victim of sexual innuendo or experienced more sinister acts from drivers. That is why it is important that customers use pre-booked PH cars or a green hackney taxi.

"We have really started to clamp down in the last six months, for a number of reasons. The city has got out of control in regards to taxis, we have seen some nasty offences committed, and we are going throug

"It is unfair for legitimate drivers to have their work stolen under their noses by those who are illegally flying round the city. We are also concerned about public safety. If you are a single female, use a hackney or pre-book a private hire.

"If you just jump into any cab there is no record of that journey and you risk the chance of becoming a victim because you just don’t know if it is legitimate."

Mr Antcliff says illegal drivers are using social messenger site Whatsapp on their mobile phones to avoid detection.

He said: "Eighty-five percent of drivers are legitimate and doing pre-booked jobs but there is a cohort – 200 on one given night.

"They are all individually out for themselves but they know each other and they help each other out. It is a hustle and their way of communicating is through Whatsapp.

"They say 'police and council are out' or they will say 'we have seen the taxi CPOs (community protection officers) out on Milton Street', and they go to the other side of the city.

"It is a game of cat and mouse but we are getting smarter. We are using the eye in the sky – we are using the CCTV cameras across the city."

Sean Cochrane is one of the community protection officers whose job is to stop illegal touting by PH drivers.

He said: "People want to get home but they do not realise the consequences. We are seeing in excess of a hundred. We won't catch everyone but we will deter it. We are concerned about safety."

Community protection officers Iona Loffman and Sean Cochrane targeting illegal Touts  in the city.

During Friday's operation, drivers were asked why they flouted the law, but often denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.

Despite one driver accepting a £20 offer to Kimberley, once rumbled he told the Post he would never have taken us and had only stopped to buy chips.

Councillor Toby Neal, the portfolio holder for community and customer service, has stressed the importance of keeping people safe.

He said: "It is coming up to one of the most busy times of the year and everyone wants to go out and have fun which is great, but our main concern is keeping people safe and if they are getting into unregulated minicabs then they are putting themselves at risk.

"Private hire cars by law should be pre-booked and if you get into one with out pre-booking you are at risk. We can't trace them, you don't know who they are and you won't be covered by insurance."

Sam Rycroft, 30, of Bulwell, was one customer who was about to take an illegal tout. on Friday night.

He said: "I have had a couple of tout drivers ask for £20 deposit or my mobile phone as deposit. All I want to do is get home safe after a night out."

Amy Upson, 24, of Essex, who was about to get into a touts car, told the Post: "I went up to him and said it would be £10 to the Premier Inn. I feel really bad. The fact he stopped in the middle of the street indicated to me he was legitimate."

Rachel Hustwayte, 38, of Wollaton, was queuing at the hackney taxi rank, which was manned by marshalls.

She said: "We are queuing for a hackney in the hope we get a safe and legitimate ride home. You hope they will charge the correct fare rather than make one up."


Mean while, in Central London, says it all ....

TfL's seem to be more concerned what magazine Licensed Taxi drivers have on show, rather being out there stoping the touting by rogue private hire touts.

Instead of protecting their stakeholder just made us more determined to get our message across.

Top of the list of heinous offences in London

• Driver not wearing a badge despite having their number on front and back windows

• Unauthorised signage 

• Over ranking, or queuing to join a rank.

And yet Touts operate all over the West End and City unabated.

What we need in London is a Head Licensing officer, with the same attitude as Richard Antcliff, and a duty of care to protect the public. Rather than a high level scripted bias to harass Licensed Taxi drivers.

Source : Nottingham Post. 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Letter To Taxi Leaks Editor : In Regards To Taxi App Hospital Run Promotion....From Sean Paul Day.

Hi Jim

I think it’s becoming evidential that the single biggest threat to our industry is the corporate takeover by multi-national conglomerates. Not surprisingly. the procurement of a self sufficient trade such as ours has a political underpinning. With that, we all face huge challenges if the Taxi trade is to survive. 

There are many who believe that the trade is set for another 100 years, or there is a knight in shining armour going to sweep through and save us from the woes of a one-tier system. It’s just not the case .

The sooner we realise that unless we have foresight, and unless we can organise ourselves- and that includes owning our own technological platform- then those challenges will be insurmountable. 

Gett has basically deregulated the taxi trade from the back door and no one is doing anything about it. MyTaxi is the same, except they’re having to court the trades affections until they take a hold on the market. Both have ambitions to be big players in logistics, and will have to transcend the Taxi trade in order to compete with companies like Uber. 

At a time when the number of potential students taking up the Knowledge  will not ensure enough  drivers enter the profession, we all need to stop and check ourselves. 

Now here’s the gig. The team at Taxiapp- like you said- don’t want to burden drivers at this time of year. We thought the hospital runs would combine a good deed with a bit of promotion to boot. It all makes good content after all, and black cabs get a big up. Also, the more people hear about us, the more they might download the app, or maybe more drivers will get on board. 

One thing is for sure, without Taxiapp there will be no one  to stand up to the corporate oligarchs. Our work and the trades future will lie in the hot little asset grabbing hands of shareholders. Bearing in mind that Taxiapp isn’t afforded the luxury of outside investment, it might be in the trades interest for drivers to employ a little discernment as opposed to the natural proclivity to discredit everything and anything at all times. Or at least see it for what it is. There is still an element within our industry that cling to attacking our own on public forums (claim it to be constructive criticism) believing that’s the best way forward

I guess there are those that think we are our worst enemies. Not me, I still hold the faith, as do you Jim.


Quebec promises to compensate taxi drivers for Uber disruption

Taxi drivers will be compensated for the lost value of their permits, Transport Minister André Fortin announced Friday.

But Fortin said the government still has to determine the value of the compensation, and when the payout will begin.

“We’re talking about a compensation package that has to be discussed with the industry to see how we can best meet the needs of the taxi industry,” Fortin said at an announcement at la Perle RetrouvĂ©e, a Haitian community centre and a regular gathering spot for taxi drivers.

Fortin announced the creation of a working group composed of members of the industry and the finance department to figure out how to compensate drivers for the lost values of their permits. Fortin has promised to come up with a concrete solution by February.

Taxi drivers have complained that since the arrival of Uber in the province, the value of their permits — which are required to operate taxis in the province — have drastically declined. First introduced by the government several decades ago, the permits are a way to control the supply of taxis in the province. They are sold on the secondary market, listed on digital billboards like Kijiji and Craigslist, and sell for up to $200,000. A recent Montreal Gazette examination showed permits in the Montreal region declined by between nine and 18.9 per cent in the span of a year.

Fortin also announced a $44-million project over five years to modernize the taxi industry. 

Taxi driver and permit owner Dama Metellus said he doesn’t understand why the government is injecting money into the industry, which will go toward taxi companies like Diamond Taxi, while it’s dragging its feet to compensate drivers.

“Diamond and Hochelaga wouldn’t exist if we didn’t buy taxi permits,” he said.

Fortin said the government appears open to revisiting the wisdom of the entire permit system. Currently, there are two classes of drivers, ones who drive taxis and have to pay the permits, and those who drive for Uber and don’t have to buy the permits.

Source : 

Just In Case You Missed This :Child Miners Aged Four Living A Hell OnEarth, So You Can Drive An Electric Taxi.

Child miners aged four living a hell on Earth so YOU can drive an electric car: 

Awful human cost in squalid Congo cobalt mine that Michael Gove didn’t consider in his ‘clean’ energy crusade

Picking through a mountain of huge rocks with his tiny bare hands, the exhausted little boy makes a pitiful sight.

His name is Dorsen and he is one of an army of children, some just four years old, working in the vast polluted mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where toxic red dust burns their eyes, and they run the risk of skin disease and a deadly lung condition. Here, for a wage of just 8p a day, the children are made to check the rocks for the tell-tale chocolate-brown streaks of cobalt – the prized ingredient essential for the batteries that power electric cars.

And it’s feared that thousands more children could be about to be dragged into this hellish daily existence – after the historic pledge made by Britain to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars from 2040 and switch to electric vehicles.

Eight-year-old Dorsen is pictured cowering beneath the raised hand of an overseer who warns him not to spill a rock

Young children working at Congo mines in horrific conditions

It heralds a future of clean energy, free from pollution but – though there can be no doubting the good intentions behind Environment Secretary Michael Gove’s announcement last month – such ideals mean nothing for the children condemned to a life of hellish misery in the race to achieve his target.

Dorsen, just eight, is one of 40,000 children working daily in the mines of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The terrible price they will pay for our clean air is ruined health and a likely early death.

Almost every big motor manufacturer striving to produce millions of electric vehicles buys its cobalt from the impoverished central African state. It is the world’s biggest producer, with 60 per cent of the planet’s reserves.

The cobalt is mined by unregulated labour and transported to Asia where battery manufacturers use it to make their products lighter, longer-lasting and rechargeable.

The planned switch to clean energy vehicles has led to an extraordinary surge in demand. While a smartphone battery uses no more than 10 grams of refined cobalt, an electric car needs 15kg (33lb).

He then staggers beneath the weight of a heavy sack that he must carry to unload 60ft away in pouring rain

Goldman Sachs, the merchant bank, calls cobalt ‘the new gasoline’ but there are no signs of new wealth in the DRC, where the children haul the rocks brought up from tunnels dug by hand.

Adult miners dig up to 600ft below the surface using basic tools, without protective clothing or modern machinery. Sometimes the children are sent down into the narrow makeshift chambers where there is constant danger of collapse.

Cobalt is such a health hazard that it has a respiratory disease named after it – cobalt lung, a form of pneumonia which causes coughing and leads to permanent incapacity and even death.

Even simply eating vegetables grown in local soil can cause vomiting and diarrhoea, thyroid damage and fatal lung diseases, while birds and fish cannot survive in the area.

No one knows quite how many children have died mining cobalt in the Katanga region in the south-east of the country. The UN estimates 80 a year, but many more deaths go unregistered, with the bodies buried in the rubble of collapsed tunnels. Others survive but with chronic diseases which destroy their young lives. Girls as young as ten in the mines are subjected to sexual attacks and many become pregnant.

Dorsen and 11-year-old Richard are pictured. With his mother dead, Dorsen lives with his father in the bush and the two have to work daily in the cobalt mine to earn money for food.

When Sky News investigated the Katanga mines it found Dorsen, working near a little girl called Monica, who was four, on a day of relentless rainfall.

Dorsen was hauling heavy sacks of rocks from the mine surface to a growing stack 60ft away. A full sack was lifted on to Dorsen’s head and he staggered across to the stack. A brutish overseer stood over him, shouting and raising his hand to threaten a beating if he spilt any.

With his mother dead, Dorsen lives with his father in the bush and the two have to work daily in the cobalt mine to earn money for food.

Dorsen’s friend Richard, 11, said that at the end of a working day ‘everything hurts’.

In a country devastated by civil wars in which millions have died, there is no other way for families to survive. Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) is donating £10.5million between June 2007 and June 2018 towards strengthening revenue transparency and encouraging responsible activity in large and small scale artisanal mining, ‘to benefit the poor of DRC’.

There is little to show for these efforts so far. There is a DRC law forbidding the enslavement of under-age children, but nobody enforces it.

The UN’s International Labour Organisation has described cobalt mining in DRC as ‘one of the worst forms of child labour’ due to the health risks.

Soil samples taken from the mining area by doctors at the University of Lubumbashi, the nearest city, show the region to be among the ten most polluted in the world. Residents near mines in southern DRC had urinary concentrates of cobalt 43 higher than normal. Lead levels were five times higher, cadmium and uranium four times higher.

The worldwide rush to bring millions of electric vehicles on to our roads has handed a big advantage to those giant car-makers which saw this bonanza coming and invested in developing battery-powered vehicles, among them General Motors, Renault-Nissan, Tesla, BMW and Fiat-Chrysler.

Chinese middle-men working for the Congo Dongfang Mining Company have the stranglehold in DRC, buying the raw cobalt brought to them in sacks carried on bicycles and dilapidated old cars daily from the Katanga mines. They sit in shacks on a dusty road near the Zambian border, offering measly sums scrawled on blackboards outside – £40 for a ton of cobalt-rich rocks – that will be sent by cargo ship to minerals giant Zhejiang Huayou Cobalt in China and sold on to a complex supply chain feeding giant multinationals.

Challenged by the Washington Post about the appalling conditions in the mines, Huayou Cobalt said ‘it would be irresponsible’ to stop using child labour, claiming: ‘It could aggravate poverty in the cobalt mining regions and worsen the livelihood of local miners.’

Human rights charity Amnesty International also investigated cobalt mining in the DRC and says that none of the 16 electric vehicle manufacturers they identified have conducted due diligence to the standard defined by the Responsible Cobalt Initiative.

Monica, just four-years-old, works in the mine alongside Dorsen and Richard.

Encouragingly, Apple, which uses the mineral in its devices, has committed itself to treat cobalt like conflict minerals – those which have in the past funded child soldiers in the country’s civil war – and the company claims it is going to require all refiners to have supply chain audits and risk assessments. But Amnesty International is not satisfied. ‘This promise is not worth the paper it is written on when the companies are not investigating their suppliers,’ said Amnesty’s Mark Dummett. ‘Big brands have the power to change this.’

After DRC, Australia is the next biggest source of cobalt, with reserves of 1million tons, followed by Cuba, China, Russia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Car maker Tesla – the market leader in electric vehicles – plans to produce 500,000 cars per year starting in 2018, and will need 7,800 tons of cobalt to achieve this. Sales are expected to hit 4.4 million by 2021. It means the price of cobalt will soar as the world gears itself up for the electric car revolution, and there is evidence some corporations are cancelling their contracts with regulated mines using industrial technology, and turning increasingly to the cheaper mines using human labour.

After the terrible plight of Dorsen and Richard was broadcast in a report on Sky News, an emotive response from viewers funded a rescue by children’s charity Kimbilio. They are now living in a church-supported children’s home, sleeping on mattresses for the first time in their lives and going to school.

But there is no such happy ending for the tens of thousands of children left in the hell on earth that is the cobalt mines of the Congo.

Source : Daily Mail. 

Friday, December 15, 2017

Mayor Khan Expects Cabbies To Provide The Same Level of Service, As He Cuts Funding For Taxicard.

Mayor Sadiq Khan's plan to slash the level of funding he provides for Taxicard services, has come under criticism from London's Local Councils.
The scheme subsidises taxi journeys for the disabled, allowing them to make journeys many would otherwise struggle to afford.
Taxi card holders pay a small amount towards the fare, and the rest is paid by the scheme. 
But the Mayor who funds the scheme through TfL, has announced plans to reduce funding by 13% in the coming financial year, followed by further cuts next year.
"This means fewer journeys or a lower level of subsidy for disabled people using the Taxicard account" said London Councils, a cross-party body, representing all local authorities in the capital. 
Councillor Julian Bell warns that TfL and the Mayor’s decision to draw up the cuts without first carrying out an equalities impact assessment could leave them open to a legal challenge.
Bell, serves as Chair of London Councils Transport and Environment Committee and is also the Labour leader of Ealing Council. 
The Councillors also said that the cuts go against Mr Khan’s election pledge to support the Taxicard scheme. He went on to say; “The scale of cuts proposed would appear to undermine Mayor's statement of support.”
City Hall claimed that despite the proposed cuts, both they and TfL are “fully committed to the Taxicard Scheme, and can guarantee that there will no reduction at all in the service being provided anywhere in London.

London black cab co-operative is offering free rides to Homerton Hospital over Christmas, to support families with loved ones who are ill. 

Taxiapp UK will be laying on the free trips on Wednesday 20th Dec afternoon.

Sean Paul Day, founding member of the not-for-profit group, which is owned directly by the drivers themselves, said: “We understand Christmas can be challenging for all those with loved ones in hospital so TAXIAPP want to offer as much support as we can for those travelling to visit family members. 

“Our goal is to make transport accessible for all.”

Taxiapp accepts all kinds of passengers, from wheelchair users to those travelling with pets.

Email to arrange pick-up and drop

Thursday, December 14, 2017

It's Official, Uber Are Operating Illegally And TfL Are Complicit.... By Jim Thomas

The answer has been there all the time and both TfL and our orgs have completely missed it. 

Listening to the licensing hearing from York yesterday, the subject was touched on more than once. But even so, no one seems to be picking up on this. 

It’s not as if this has been kept secret (like the hacking of Uber customer details, Or GreyBall, or the UberRape stats, of the Uber fake medicals, or the 13,000 Uber drivers with fake DBS certificates), this has been mentioned on oath in two court cases, one in Canada, the other in London at the workers rights tribunal.

There was even an all org meeting called to discuss this issue at Taxi house (which I attended) and it turned out both the RMT and Unite hadn’t bothered to research the subject. 
There was no follow up to this meeting.

All the time, the answer has been there and it doesn’t need an APPG parliamentary commission, or a Judicial review, or a million pound war chest.

So what is this magic bullet ?

Don’t just take my word for it, take the trouble to listen to the webcast in the York licensing post. 
A number of the witnesses giving evidence said virtually the same thing. 

Here is Lee Ward, Chairman of ALPHA, giving his objection at the Licensing hearing, it's just 3 minutes long but gives all the insight needed.


At a number of licence applications, Uber were asked a very simple question. 

"Could you tell us who the contract for the journey is between...?"
Who accepts the booking, is it Uber or the driver?

We have been told twice under oath in court, that the driver accepts the booking and this is illegal !!!

At all applications where this question has been asked, Uber gave no reply and the application was subsequently withdrawn.

Why are our orgs not asking this question?
Why haven't TfL asked Uber this question?

PH operators Abstract of Law PHV act 1998.

Sometimes, the answer to the most complicated problems are quite simple.

TfL have always known the driver illegally accepts the booking first in vehicle. 

They said nothing about this, which makes them complicit in the illegal operations of all Uber's drivers. 

This is malfeasance on a grand scale, and involves successive TfL commissioners, director and managers past and present, from the last 5 years. 

We recently seen more evidence of collusion between Uber and senior TfL managers with the scandal over the 13,000 uber drivers with suspected fake DBS certificates.

TfL have let 10,400 drivers slip under the wire and have only investigate 2,400, of which 875 have actually been suspended. Just doing the Maths, means that 10% of Uber's whole work force could be considered as not fit to be licensed to driver a private hire vehicle. 
Are TfL happy to see the public put at this sizeable risk ???

It now appears TfL are playing down this issue, are they hoping it will disappear from the radar over the next few weeks ???

The question needs to be asked, would they have treated Licensed Taxi drivers in the same way they've dealt with Uber's drivers......I think not!!!