Saturday, February 20, 2016

Letter To MP : From Lee Ward, Chairman Of The ALPHA


My name is Lee Ward, I am the Chairman of ALPHA, a newly formed association in Sheffield, please read the attached mail I sent to the local MP. 
I am awaiting a reply still, but I think the industry would like to read it.


Dear Sir.
We apologise for this being a generic letter, but we have to gain the attention of many Members of Parliament for this to be taken notice of.
ALPHA represent the Private Hire drivers of the Taxi industry and need to bring the serious issue of the Deregulation Act 2015 to your attention, an act that has desecrated the drivers within this industry.

We, and our members feel that this Act was brought in to enable multi billion pound companies at the expense of the hard working and loyal drivers of this industry, to bypass the previous and working bylaws that previously existed under the Town Police Clauses Act 1847 or that Act as amended by the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

One of the first reasons given in the House of Commons is, and yes, every sitting on this Act has been read, and read again, but we will try to keep it to the basics..

New clause 10 allows private hire vehicle operators to subcontract to each other across licensing boundaries. That will allow private hire vehicle operators to work more flexibly and to grow their businesses. Passengers will be able to rely on their local operator, rather than being turned away when the operator cannot directly fulfil the booking. Under the triple licence requirement, private hire operators are licensed within a district and must use only vehicles and drivers licensed by the same local authority as granted their operator licence. It is important that that requirement remains in place for the moment, although we will revisit the whole issue when we consider the Law Commission’s report.

Travel patterns, however, are not neatly aligned with district borders. That is why private hire operators are allowed to accept bookings for journeys which go beyond the district or which are wholly outside the district. It is currently prohibited for a licensed operator to subcontract a booking to an operator in a different district. An operator can only subcontract bookings to an operator licensed in the same district. That is clearly restrictive and the Government consider it ripe for reform. 

The clause will allow a private hire operator licensed outside London—although not based in Plymouth, because of the exception—to subcontract a booking to another operator in a different district or based in London or based in Scotland. That liberalising measure will enable the private hire trade to operate in the way it sees fit, not just in the way that the restrictive legislation dictates. Operators will be able to choose, on a commercial basis, whether to fulfil a particular journey by using their own vehicles and drivers or whether it would be preferable to subcontract the booking to another, more conveniently located operator. There will be positive consequences for the environment, as there will be less dead mileage.

To say that this is the first reason to have to make such a huge change to the laws that govern this industry, we must say the reasons are very, for want of a better word, lame.

Let us take this opportunity to break this down.
New clause 10 allows private hire vehicle operators to subcontract to each other across licensing boundaries. That will allow private hire vehicle operators to work more flexibly and to grow their businesses. Passengers will be able to rely on their local operator, rather than being turned away when the operator cannot directly fulfil the booking.

How does a business grow if it is giving its work away, and how does the passenger rely on their local operator, when the operator who has taken the booking given it to another company ?

Under the triple licence requirement, private hire operators are licensed within a district and must use only vehicles and drivers licensed by the same local authority as granted their operator licence. It is important that that requirement remains in place for the moment, although we will revisit the whole issue when we consider the Law Commission’s report.

If the importance of the vehicle and driver to be licensed by the same Local Authority (LA) as the Operator who took the booking, why has the Deregulation Act 2015 not been halted until the report by the Law Commission is finished, and why change a law to perhaps go back to rethink it dependant on this report by the Law Commission ?

Travel patterns, however, are not neatly aligned with district borders. That is why private hire operators are allowed to accept bookings for journeys which go beyond the district or which are wholly outside the  district. It is currently prohibited for a licensed operator to subcontract a booking to an operator in a different district. An operator can only subcontract bookings to an operator licensed in the same district. That is clearly restrictive and the Government consider it ripe for reform.
So, lets get this bit clear.

It was legal for a Taxi/Private Hire Company to pick up and drop off outside its licensed borders, as it was also legal for the same company to pick up and drop off outside those same borders, but it was illegal for that operator to subcontract a booking to another company. How was this restrictive and ripe for reform, when it was quite clear that the customer could still book with the original company anyway ?

That liberalising measure will enable the private hire trade to operate in the way it sees fit, not just in the way that the restrictive legislation dictates.
Sorry, we cannot see what this argument is to be honest.
Operators will be able to choose, on a commercial basis, whether to fulfil a particular journey by using their own vehicles and drivers or whether it would be preferable to subcontract the booking to another, more conveniently located operator. There will be positive consequences for the environment, as there will be less dead mileage.

Ok, now it gets interesting again, sorry about that.
Operators would not choose on a commercial basis, because the journey is either viable for them or not, pretty much the same as a window fitter based in Cornwall would wish to go to Manchester to fit a bedroom window. Its simply not business savvy.

Now, what it has allowed, although its worded as ‘subcontract the booking to a more conveniently located operator’ is the ability for Uber to cover any and every job that is booked through its app.
The crux of this matter is the initial argument, as stated in the introduction to this Act in the House of Commons, that it would be a ‘more conveniently located operator’ that actually picked up and dropped this customer off, however, in the real world Uber have drivers from all licensed area’s (outside London) parked up waiting for jobs in any Town or City that Uber hold a License in, then take the app booking which the mainframe computer then looks for the nearest vehicle (due to the Deregulation Act 2015) and sends it to that vehicle regardless of whether a Licensed vehicle from the area that the booking was made happens to be sat waiting for that booking to make that driver a living.
Not quite what was made to believe in the argument for this Act to be put through, wouldn’t you agree ?

On top of this, the argument that this would cut the costs to the public for booking with a company that they know and trust has proved to be false also. Uber will surge the charges to the travelling public if they do not have a vehicle in that area, which, I am sure you will agree that this is exactly the same as a ‘pulling charge’ which an Operator would have set should that customer be asking for an out of area pick up that happened to be dropping out of area also (recall that this was a legal booking prior to the argument given for this Act of 12015)

Now, please take into account that this is just the first argument against the first reason given behind the Deregulation Act 2015 I am sure that you can see that this Act is not only unneeded, but unjustifiable. But this Act has however taken a great toll on the drivers of this industry, to a point that they are working longer hours to barely make ends meet, and will therefore rely on benefits to substitute their income. While Uber chose to use an offshore account in the Netherlands to pay the minimum amount into the UK as they can.

Now of course, we would never accuse any person in government to not be ‘playing with a straight bat’ But the following facts are rather interesting after the very brief break down of what the Deregulation Act 2015 should have been, what it was and what it actually is.

In 2012 Uber came to London
In 2012 Steve Hilton left as the Publicity guy for the Conservatives
In 2012 the government decided to start the deregulation of the Taxi and PH industry (to become the Deregulation Act 2015

Steve Hilton is married to Rachel Whetstone, their kids have the godparent that happens to be David Cameron

2015 Rachel Whetstone (who used to work for the conservatives before moving to Google) then becomes the senior vice-president of policy and communications of Uber

What we do wish, is that you as a Member of Parliament, address this issue and request that this Law (the Deregulation Act 2015) is stopped, reversed or put on hold before it cripples this industry and the hundreds of thousands that work long, hard and unsociable hours serving the community and providing for their families.

This Act, as we see it was purely for the benefit of Uber, who, as the world wide media constantly reminds us all, are purely for a profit and have no thoughts for the drivers and the conditions that they work.

We acknowledge what the media are reporting in London, but this Law that was passed in 2015 has such a widespread impact on this industry, it is almost at the point of pure saturation and families are struggling all over the country because of it.

If this was the steel industry which has been hit recently, then the whole country gets to hear about it and thePoliticians act to support it, this time, we ask that the politicians act before the industry and its drivers and families are on its knees.
 
Many thanks
Lee Ward
ALPHA Chairman