Thursday, October 22, 2015

Enforcers, Imposters or Saviours? Semtex

Nothing in life makes me more frustrated than professional incompetence. Despite our apparent prolific steps we make in technology, science, medical research, mini cab apps and much more, basic incompetence is all around us as we go about our daily lives. 

Some of it is caused because the person or persons have been inadequately trained, some of it is caused by lack of interest, despite good training, and some of it is caused by the employers, in an inexcusable effort to save money by not getting the fully trained candidates in the first place.

There are probably a million reasons for it I guess, but either way, when blatantly confronted with it, I get really wound up.
A few years ago, I was confronted with a serious road traffic collision in Moorgate outside the tube station. The road was two way then. It was a motorcyclist and a van involved. The paramedics pulled up, blues and twos on and then the ambulance just stopped. 

I was puzzled to see what the problem was for the young lady driver, and assumed there was something blocking the road, which in turn was preventing her access to the scene.
I sat patiently stationery in the cab, and so did the paramedics. The two tones were still sounding and her blue beacons were still flashing, although the ambulance was motionless. The motorcyclist at this time had gone into shock and started shaking uncontrollably. 

Professional help was only 100 yards away, but may well just as been 100 miles ! 

I decided to get out the cab and see what the problem was. By this time the motorcyclist is in a bad way. The passenger member of the ambulance crew had thankfully grabbed his bag and began a sprint to the scene, but still the lady driver medic sat behind the wheel, 100 yards from the injured parties. 

As I approached the ambulance, she too jumped out and began making her way to the collision scene. Still bemused, I asked if there was a problem with the ambulance. She looked as me as though I was an imbecile and said "How do you expect me to get the ambulance through there !?" pointing towards the more than ample gap in the traffic. 

I was utterly flabbergasted ! 
Every single one of us professional cab drivers would have got the ambulance through the gap at 70 mph, eating a bagel at the same time !  

Without thinking, I jumped in the ambulance, pulled it through the gap, drove it up to the scene, and got back into my cab. The applause from the spectating public was rapturous, but believe me, I was no hero. Furthermore, I realise my actions were not only discouraged, but illegal.

The motorcyclist and his family would have probably thought differently however. There is absolutely no way on earth, that a professional driver, let alone a professional emergency response driver, should have had any problem with that manoeuver whatsoever! But she did.

Her medical skills were probably superb, but without being able to drive both confidently and competently at speed to a motorcyclist losing blood and just gone into shock..............what is the point ?
Which leads me to my concerns. Transport For London have always had a Compliance Section for London Taxis and Private Hire, and without sounding disrespectful, they have always been useless. 

Their conviction record or rather, lack of it, speaks for itself and is dire. Their defence at any slurs that come from the likes of me however, have always been to explain that they just haven't got enough resources to deal with the problem. 

To a very small degree, I can see the point they make, but in all honesty, if any organisation issue licences for anything, be it driving, shooting, fishing, flying.......whatever, then they have to make arrangements to ENFORCE THE LAWS on the said licences that they charge for and issue, to ensure that all terms of the licences are being complied with and adhered to.
Many of our trade remember being under the control of the Metropolitan Police for our licences. Some of us loved it that way, some of us hated it, but that is not the essence of my post. 

The fact is, when our trade was under the umbrella of the Met, there is no doubt whatsoever, that they did an excellent job of both enforcing the conditions of our cab licences and making sure that our compliance to the said licences were adhered to at all times.
Now look at the state of the place!
There is not a London Taxi Driver who wont be able to reflect my opinion of how inexcusable and out of control, mini cab touting in our Capital has become.

They are everywhere, like ants ! I would like to think that even TFL themselves would admit that the situation of PHV compliance is a huge problem now and effective action needs to be launched immediately.
Personally, I think that the powers in charge make far too much of the brief. 

I applied unsuccessfully for the appointment of Head of Compliance. Had I have got the job, trust me that within a fortnight, the difference in the West End and City  would have been apparent, measureable and reducing with every weekend. 

It's not difficult to enforce the law and to be honest, any surveillance skills that the new man may have....will be wasted.
The touts are blatantly obvious !
The problem is though, the Metropolitan Police Service are currently operating on a very tight budget. 

Coppers are apparently getting buses to crime scenes, ffs !

If that is true, then naturally, mini cab touting not only comes very far down the Met's priority list, but just cannot be dealt with on the current financial structure............end of.

So what now then ?  
If the Police can't deal with the touts for whatever reason............who will ?
TFL said they will, and indeed have recruited a very capable and hard hitting ex-copper who comes with an excellent CV. 

Whatsmore, it is TFL who are selling these mini cab licences, and raking in millions of pounds at the same time. 

It is surely down to them to supply adequate enforcement to monitor compliance of the licences they are selling ?

BUT.......and this is where it gets silly..........what use are the new compliance officers under the new man's command.........UNLESS THEY HAVE FULL POWERS OF LAWFUL ARREST ?
To my mind, employing compliance officers to catch touts and deal with them APPROPRIATELY, is akin to employing the paramedic who couldn't drive the ambulance, POINTLESS !

The Met can't even train POLICE OFFICERS to the pre-Hendon standard, let alone Taxi and Private Hire Compliance Officers. 
So that's the police out of it for any realistic enforcement.
So how are we going to deal with this issue then, or rather, how are TFL going to deal with it ? The way I see it is, TFL have been on a recent recruitment drive for these pointless and toothless Compliance Officers. They will probably give it a stab to make it work, but trust me, they will achieve nothing, and at a huge public money cost.
This is why I got so frustrated for the 71.2% of the UCG's membership, who voted to suspend the successful Demos, to give the Police and TFL a chance to make it happen. 

It was impossible ever to happen ! They haven't got the financial budget, they haven't got the professional resources and they haven't got the powers ! So what did our colleagues think was going to happen ?
Well, even though I said it at the time, you don't need me to actually prove and show you what has happened since the Demo suspensions, do you ?
ZILCH !   
There is of course only one realistic way to combat this evolving menace, and that is by doing this.....
Part of the City Hall's budget to the Mayor, needs to be set aside for a proper, professional squad of LTPH Enforcement & Compliance Officers, headed by the same man as just been appointed. 

HOWEVER, these cannot be just any officers, they need to be chosen and plucked from either the Met or City Police, all with full powers of arrest and seconded ONLY to the LTPH Compliance Team.....NOTHING ELSE !
I have always preached it. If you have a full on, committed, lead by example Head of Compliance, backed by 20 or so hand picked police officers who actually WANT AND DESIRE to be on the team and who want to make a difference.......................
a hugely realistic and potent difference will be seen on them streets within TWO WEEKS ! YES, TWO WEEKS, JUST A FORTNIGHT!
I know I'm an anorak, but I actually dream of doing that brief ! I would honestly do it for nothing ! It would be so satisfying to clear that lot out and make a massive difference ! Anyone with half an idea on this deployment could assure promotion and huge personal satisfaction on the back of the London Mini Cab Tout problem.
As I say, the new man in charge ex- Met Superintendent Matt Bell is no slouch. He will know what is expected, know his patch and know how serious the problem is. However, its not Matt Bell who I am worried about, its the team of compliance officers that will be working with him that I have the problem with.

Without powers of arrest, what are they going to enforce ? 
If they can't nick them, what can they do ? 
Report them ? 
Give them a piece of paper that states that they are to be reported, cautioned and dealt with by law ?

That maybe all OK if the car they have stopped isn't a ringer, or belonging to somebody in Strathclyde who thought the vehicle was still outside the fish and chip shop where they left it last night !  Issuing a paperwork form to a stopped driver seen touting  is equally just as useless if it transpires that the driver has no driving licence, no legal entry into the UK and only yesterday was looking up a goat's arse hole from inside a desert tent in Syria.

Without powers to arrest the suspect, take him in for questioning, seize and crush his vehicle, keep him in remand till Monday and take him by police transport to Westminster Magistrates Court to get 6 months in the nick.....................
I have trained detection and protection dogs for over twenty years now. If you saw me remove a set of dentures out of a 55 kilo German Shepherd's mouth JUST before setting it on you...................would you be quaking in you're boots ?
I doubt it ! 
After all, if the dog can't bite you, what harm can it do you ? 
Exactly, None !
So when TFL let this new army of Compliance Officers loose with no powers of arrest, and no likelihood of vehicle seizure or custody potential for the tout onto our streets, what impact do you expect these officers to make to a hardened and habitual mini cab tout, then?

Absolutely !  No impact whatsoever ! 

They will take the paperwork, and if its thin enough and like that carbon type paper, probably roll a spliff with it ! 
They will then drive round the corner and begin touting again, likely disenchanted that they have lost 30 minutes work ! Don't forget, a lot of these touts are used to looking down the barrels of machine guns, they ain't worried, frightened or deterred about a paperwork caution !
Folks, unless TFL employ a proper team of lawful enforcers out on those streets, instead of a battalion of ill equipped imposters..................the situation will, and can only get worse and worse and worse.

I assume the 71.2% of our colleagues who called for the demo suspensions are fully aware now that the promise of adequate mini cab tout compliance is as hollow as a Tesco's Easter Egg ! 

That was merely a ruse designed for our trade to lose it's grip and combined momentum, that's all. 

The IRA used that ploy dozens of times in the 70's. It gives them TIME !
There is no doubt whatsoever, that the touting situation in London by both licensed and unlicensed mini cabs is epidemic. Unless something realistic and viable is deployed very soon to thwart it, there will be an uprising on our London streets. And that will be unhelpful to everyone.
There is and always has been something in my mind that I worry about in relation to all this though. How about if TFL had absolutely no intention of stopping the touting problem in the first place, and were merely going through the motions to make it look like they were concerned ?
On the other hand, I'm a pessimistic old dinosaur these days, and in the real world that I increasingly shirk from, that wouldn't or couldn't really happen.   Would it ? Could it ?  Course not !  I shall just have to keep taking my tablets !
Be Lucky all.
8829 Semtex.