Before proceedings got underway, the trade was shown just how important our issues are to LTPH with the announcement by Chairperson Helen Chapman, the meeting would be cut short to facilitate the cleaners.
According to the LTDF today, many who attended felt there was no structure to the meeting which came across as very unprofessional. Important issues were fudged and time was wasted on minor issues.
Almost one third of the time allocated was initially spent discussing wether extras could be reintroduced. We were informed that although it was previously announced in a TfL press notice, the Christmas charges would be automatically activated after this Aprils fare increase meter change, this will not now be the case, as meter companies say they can not accommodate the request.
A representative of the Jewish Association of Cabbies (JAC) accused LTPH of being institutionally racist and anti-semitic, as the engagement policy which has terms and conditions they could never meet, excludes them as a group from regular and meaningful meetings, along with other small representative groups.
Another driver asked about compensation for loss of earnings, after having to answer false allegations from a member of the public. He was told that his situation had already been dealt with. Unfortunately the driver concerned, still feels the issue hasn't been concluded to his satisfaction.
The question of signage for private hire was bought up and the assembled drivers were told that the PH trade had made it clear in the private hire consultation they didn't want more/ better signage. One driver asked why the trade wasn't balloted over ID badges, to our amazement, we were told LTPH couldn't afford to write to every driver (although thats exactly what Leon Daniels did over the Cabbies Cabinet Scam).
There were no real answers about the volume or extent of the cloned Bill, IDs and Badge issue and the panel moved away from the subject rather sharpish.
LTPH were accused of inventing rules and regulations that they had no intention of backing up with enforcement. It was felt by the drivers that we need to see the rules against illegally plying for hire being enforced and the argument that LTPH are waiting for a water tight test case, no longer holds water as the situation outside many night venues is completely out of control.
It was stated from the floor that we desperately need more rank spaces. In just a few decades we have gone from one rank space for every taxi to 65 taxis vying over each rank space available. We will shortly be seeing new road schemes which will sweep away even more traditional ranks over the next few years.
It was explained to the assembled drivers, that although the self appointed quango known as the "Joint Ranks Committee" meet regularly on a monthly basis with LTPH, they do not have decision making powers. In other words, a waste of time and money.
LTPH tried to side step the ranks issue, stating they have no control over the situation regarding the appointment of ranks. It was politely pointed out, the Mayor as head of TfL does in fact have the power to do just this. Boris had no trouble finding road space for the Barclay Bank Bike scheme, even managing to replace a number of cab ranks with bike docking bays.
If the Mayor is serious about a cleaner, greener environment for Central London then it should be a priority to implement more rank spaces to take as many taxis as possible out of traffic congestion and negate their of constantly having to circulate to look for work.
Highlight of the evening was when Mike Bailey, chairman of the RMT London Taxi branch, fed up with constantly being ignored by the Chair, decided to interject and was threatened with eviction from the meeting by security which didn't go down very well with the drivers. He then went on to make one of the best speeches I have heard for a long time, that laid out the dangers we are facing, concerning our exclusive right to ply for hire, from the Law Commission.
Also a great short speech from RMT Vice Chair Paul Bond talking about illegal practise at Satellite offices
The meeting was bought to conclusion 30 minutes early at 7o/c. Quite a few drivers remained speaking on a one to one basis with panel members. When I left the room, just after 7:30, there were no signs whatsoever of any cleaners.
Before I personally attend another forum at Palestra, the length of the meeting will have to be extended, the format would have to have a radical shake up and the meeting would have to be chaired by an independent Chairperson. Until then, I believe this type of forum is a complete waste of time.