The great Albert Einstein once gave his own definition of insanity he surmised; Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. In many respects, this approach epitomises the cab trade.
The one thing people don’t appear to be considering is the future. A reasonable stance might be to try to look at the cab trade from the outside. So imagine that you work for the Law Commission, as many of you will know they are still drafting their bill that will determine the future of all in the taxi and minicab business. You’d see something quite remarkable.
Firstly, you’d notice how quickly your controversial papers of a matter of a mere few months ago have been forgotten. Your simple statement given suggesting you feel locals are best placed to decide taxi numbers has effectively pacified the majority of the loudest voices who were protesting against you.
The other perceived dangers like cross border hiring, which will arguably have more of an adverse affect on the taxi trade than deregulation, wasn’t seemingly ever a serious consideration by the taxi trade hence the relative silence – after all – the obvious thing that really counts to some are plate values, the cross border thing was a mere annoyance by comparison.
The other little bits you added, such as non-transferable licenses and more to the fact, what this may balloon into, doesn’t appear to affect the incumbent trade, so that gets ignored as well.
I would have personally thought starting campaigns about such things as license fees was at this stage a massive diversion. If the 1976 Act was a football match – a reasonable person may suggest its now in the throes of injury time. To start making waves – and more importantly distracting people from the real issues at this stage of the game, is in my view, nothing short of insanity.
I did actually write an article a number of years ago covering the issue – I spent a good few months obtaining fees from local authorities – the article can be found in an old issue of taxitalk magazine (April or May 2010) or on the website – http://www.taxi-driver.co.uk/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=13643. Suffice to state, you can now probably see the problem I have – its not a new issue, its one that’s been around for many years.
So whilst peoples sudden interest in license fees and what functions the fee should fulfil is comforting, in all too many respects, it’s around 40 years too late.
I look at this and ask myself if I’m being overly harsh. I don’t think I am, the recent case brought by the district auditor in Guildford points out exactly what the licensing function can and cannot fund (and by recent we’re going back almost 4 years).
When considering fees perhaps the cab trade needs to take a broader view, and to take a broader view may actually mean considering arguments from all sides. You see, whilst it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that perhaps all licensees should maybe fund things like test purchasing and swoops on illegal plying for hire. It is almost certain, a council cannot charge all licensees for this. So facing facts, those that will be paying will be those where the act allows for it. It could therefore be the case that some in the licensed trade will face large increases in fees – where others may face reductions. In many respects – you should be careful what you wish for.
Going back to the Law Commission, and its if you can be bothered (and I have no reason to presume you are), peek at the government response to the early position of the Law Commission. It is broadly the opposite of everything the taxi trade wanted, therefore even though the Law Commission may have (bravely) changed their minds on one or two initial views, there is no reason whatsoever to believe the government will do the same.
There is a whole caboodle of things I am unhappy about and the cab trade don’t exactly help me out of this state of mind because they appear to be led by lunatics.
The possibility of fines (or fixed penalty tickets) is one obvious case in point. The insanity of some is such that they appear to believe they can dictate who gets what from the income raised via the fine. The government can have 50% and the local authority licensing department the other 50% – everyone will then be happy. That’s everybody apart from the poor sod paying the fine. Oh, and please be aware, the figure mooted by one person was £200 per FPN.
Naturally, when someone such as myself points out that licensing officers like the easy jobs – therefore catching a cab via CCTV for the offence of over ranking is more likely to happen than something that may mean an officer physically leaving the office – I am cast asunder. Similarly, my assertion that if fines are needed as a source of licensing department funding – the licensing department will go out and fine everybody – like their wage depends upon it – isn’t seemingly a consideration.
Of course, those that need to be afraid of fines are those foolish individuals who actually drive taxis, broadly speaking, this isn’t a position many trade representatives, at least nationally, find themselves in.
If the cab trade had any semblance of being a broadly sane business, it should be busily warning everyone about the dangers of cross border. It should be attempting to persuade the government that their initial response to the Law Commission was wrong.
Indeed, if cross border is to be legalised then how local authorities fund taxi licensing will be a major issue. At the moment for example approximately 200 vehicles licensed in Rossendale work in Manchester – whether the good folks of Manchester like this arrangement or not isn’t really open to debate – the effect of the flag of convenience that is Rossendale councils somewhat laid back attitude to the problems their vehicles create – is one of Manchester Council being denied funding.
Two hundred vehicles at a minimal cost of £100 per license and £50 per drivers license (for arguments sake) is denying Manchester Council around £30K in license fees. Law Commission plans will see Manchester council being able to stop and check Rossendale vehicles – yet nobody is absolutely certain who’ll pay Manchester Council to do this. Before you Mancunians start shouting rude things I do realise there’s serious questions being asked about license fees in Manchester.
However, there are many questions that need asking towards what our future holds – I therefore find it astonishing some are looking with both eyes to the past – but then again – I was the one supposed to be a luddite.