Saturday, December 07, 2013

Operation to tackle criminal infrastructure currently operating in Soho

The culmination in the latest phase of an operation designed to dismantle the criminal infrastructure currently operating in Soho has resulted in 29 arrests and premises raided by the Metropolitan Police Service.

Codenamed Demontere the operation has been months in the planning using evidence gathered by undercover officers and other policing tactics to target those people using various businesses as a front for handling stolen goods. 

Officers have evidence of high value watches and jewellery, mobile phones and items stolen as a result of shoplifting and robbery all having been 'converted' to cash in a number of properties. Police have gained direct evidence linking drug dealers and those buying stolen goods to a number of properties including a minicab company, brothels, clubs and sex shops.

To support the arrest phase brothel closure orders will be applied for to attempt to close those addresses linked to serious crimes including rape and human trafficking. The licensed premises will go before a review committee. 

Previously, operations - codenamed Jolt and Rense - have taken place since May 2012, using a range of policing tactics and specialist officers from across the Met, to tackle the drugs market in Soho. 

To date as part of these operations 73 drug dealers and users have been arrested, being jailed for over 170 years in total, or have anti-social behaviour orders in place against them. 

Commander Alison Newcomb, in charge of policing in Westminster, said: "These operations have given us a much clearer intelligence picture and evidence of connections between criminals and crime types that were happening in Soho, from street drug dealers to links with human traffickers.

"This part of London has been almost a constant feature as a crime hotspot for the Met so we have used a range of specialist officers, skills and policing tactics to make this a hostile area for criminals to try and operate in.

"So far we've made 100 arrests for drug dealing and handling stolen goods as part of this sustained campaign of police activity. Our aim is to make this an environment where criminals who may attempt to operate here in the future are always concerned that the Met is on to them. 

"The next step will be to work to close a number of the brothels where we have evidence of very serious crimes happening, including rape and human trafficking. We are using the skills and support of specialist officers from throughout the Met to ensure that suspects are found and brought to justice and the women are properly supported.

"Financial investigators will now follow the money trail and will go where the evidence takes them, unpicking if there are broader criminal networks involved. 

"We will continue to do all we can to make this a hostile environment for criminals to try and operate in. The next phase of this operation is already in the planning.

"London is an internationally renowned tourist destination and a world class capital city, Soho is at its very heart. Importantly, Soho is also a residential community, and we are committed to tackling the crime and behaviour that causes them concern, not just now with these operations but in the future too."

The Territorial Support Group started the arrest phase at 21:30hrs on Wednesday, 4 December, carrying out raids at addresses in Tisbury Court, Walkers Court and the surrounding area. 

More arrests have been made this morning, Thursday, 5 December, and officers are still searching over 20 addresses, including the homes of many of those arrested.

Councillor Philippa Roe, Leader of Westminster City Council, said: "The night time economy is a cornerstone of the West End's success and, as part of the West End Partnership, Westminster City Council works to promote the area as a safe place for law abiding people to live and do business.

"Drugs, theft, handling stolen goods and human trafficking have no part in that which is why Westminster City Council stands shoulder to shoulder with the Metropolitan Police Service in Operation Demontere. 

"Together, we're sending the clear message that the insidious tentacles of the criminal underworld will not be allowed to spread through Soho unchecked and unchallenged.

"Tonight's raids struck a significant blow against the criminal infrastructure. Now, however, we want to be just as clear that Westminster City Council is ready to help any vulnerable woman - themselves victims of crime, trapped in a way of life where they have little or no control. For us, their safety is paramount."

Undercover officers have been deployed in Soho on a number of operations over the last two years infiltrating the networks of drug dealers and those people buying stolen goods. This has given police sufficient evidence to mount this operation, the third so far.

Making sure that all the legislative opportunities are explored to reduce the chances of these properties re-opening straight away officers have been working closely with Westminster City Council and jointly will ensure licensing hearings are held and brothel closure orders are applied for. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

50 taxi drivers “sacked” after trying for better conditions

Could be a scenario here if the Law comm gets its way and designates airports as fair game with no plying for hire rights.?

Could even be a business opportunity for some of the trades yes men?

Is this type of thing what's going on at LCA behind the scenes so only the 'chosen ones' can work there?

It was tried years ago at LAP but it failed as the Met stepped in, today's a whole new ball game, so who knows?

50 taxi drivers “sacked” after trying for better conditions at Auckland Airport

50 taxi drivers who have been campaigning for better conditions at Auckland Airport have been effectively sacked, Auckland Taxi Association said today.

The drivers, all working for President Taxis were notified on Wednesday that President Taxis would no longer have a contract with Auckland Airport as of 11.59 pm on Monday 9 December 2013.

This means that none of these 50 drivers will be able to pick up passengers from the airport from this date.

Earlier this month around 200 airport taxi drivers identified a number of abuses of taxi drivers at the Airport and formed the Auckland Taxi Association to fight for better conditions and rights.  This lead to protest actions of drivers at the airport.

While the Airport Company made some minor changes, it did not resolve the major issues and then said that it would no longer talk directly to the taxi drivers but only to their contracting taxi companies.

Now one of these companies, President Taxis, has suddenly announced without the required notice that it no longer has a Airport contract from Monday night, leaving its drivers high and dry. The drivers are now in panic mode trying to get driving contracts with other companies which means added costs of brand and meter changing and time off the road for the cabs.

Spokesperson for the Auckland Taxi Association, Manmohan Singh, said he believed that President Taxis losing its contract to Auckland Airport was an attempt by the Airport Company to isolate the leadership of the Auckland Taxi Association and break its campaign for the rights of taxi drivers at Auckland airport.

However this action has meant that as from Monday night 50 airport taxi drivers have essentially been sacked.  This would not be acceptable if we were employees and should not be acceptable for us as contractors, he said.

The Auckland Taxi drivers has been given support from the Labour Party and FIRST Union in its dispute with Auckland Airport.


Thursday, December 05, 2013

Is this TfL's latest attempt to hoodwink the London Taxi trade, or another sign that they are just not fit for purpose? Travis B.

A certain number of favoured drivers have been singled out to take part in an online survey. 

This from TfL:
As part of the on-going work to reduce harmful emissions in London and improve air quality, Transport for London is researching the potential for using electric or plug-in hybrid vehicles as taxis in London. At present no electric or plug-in vehicles are available for use as London taxis, but it is possible that suitable vehicles may be available in the future. It is important that we understand what infrastructure might be needed for such vehicles to be operationally and commercially viable. To do this, we are asking taxi drivers about their working patterns, working hours, areas worked and where breaks are taken.

All results are anonymous and confidential. The survey should take no more than 15 minutes, and can be completed on a smartphone as well as a computer. The survey closes for responses at 9am Monday 9th December.

You are part of a small group of drivers that we have selected to answer the survey before it is sent to all London taxi drivers. To help us improve the survey, we would be grateful if you could tell us how long it takes to complete. There will be space to do so at the end.

To thank you for taking part, your details will be entered into a prize draw, and the first entry drawn at random will win £25 of Amazon vouchers. Please click the link below to start the survey.

They are then given a link to an online survey. 

Drivers who agree to take part are first asked if they are a yellow badge or a green badge. But when you press next, whether you are using an iOS or Windows this message flags up saying;

"We have already registered your feedback. Thank you for your input."

And that's it.
Drivers are worried that the rest of the survey has already been completed on their behalf, so TfL can show whatever conclusion they wish to find.

Or are they really that incompetent?

It seems this survey is suffering from the same symptoms as the CABWISE app which has been faulty since released, even though many complaints have been made.

We at a Taxi leaks are surprised that on this issue TfL have taken little or no notice of one of their top consultants on the a taxi trade, Mr John Griffin who has made his feelings on full electric vehicles very clear. See below:

“The electric vehicles are the biggest nonsense ever, in the history of time” 

“Where’s the power? We are buying electricity off France today and we have nothing. We don’t have fossil fuels and the analogy we can rely on windmills is a complete farce.”

“Boris actually asked me what I think of the electric cars and I told him don’t go there. Boris said ‘what can I do?’ In other words, ‘I cannot stand against this because it’s just a tide of emotional belief that you can’t say no.’

“Politicians dare not tell the public the truth, it’s a subject that can bring a party down. So the politicians avoid it, they mislead you to believing these silly cars are London’s future.”
John Griffin.


Well said John. 


Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Cameron meets Chinese owners of London's cabs

Geely has announced an £80 million investment into research and production of the new hybrid TX5 model, expected to create 500 new jobs at the Coventry plant, quadrupling the workforce.

After meeting company chairman Li Shifu in Shanghai, the Prime Minister said:

"Black cabs are synonymous with London. Getting one in Shanghai today highlights how the links between the UK and China can bring rewards for both - Chinese investment helping British businesses to succeed and grow."

The new Chinese owner of the iconic London taxi brand today announced plans to develop the first-ever electric black cab.But in a sign of the shifting fortunes of Manganese Bronze

Holdings , which was saved from bankruptcy by the Chinese owners of Volvo over the summer , the announcement was made not in London but in Shanghai.

The only London presence was that of David Cameron — posing slightly awkwardly for photos with the chairman of Geely Automotive in the back of a taxi shipped out from the UK. “I wonder if all taxi drivers across the world think and talk like London cabbies,” Mr Cameron pondered.

The purchase of Manganese by Geely is likely to make the London cab a familiar sight not just in the capital but in China as well. The company is about to deliver 100 vehicles to the Chinese city of Shen Zhen in the next two weeks and more orders are expected soon.

Yesterday the company announced the development of the TX5 model which will create 500 new jobs at the company’s Coventry plant, quadrupling the workforce. The TX5 will initially be a hybrid vehicle but the company plans to produce a fully-electric version within five years.

“We believe that electric cabs are ultimately the future for us,” said a company spokesman. “The London cab is iconic around the world and now being a larger group should help us to expand internationally, making it a familiar sight around the world.” Mr Cameron said the Geely partnership symbolised what he was trying to achieve with his trade visit to China.

He added:“Black cabs are synonymous with London. Getting one in Shanghai today highlights how the links between the UK and China can bring rewards for both — Chinese investment helping British businesses to succeed and grow.”

Geely are investing £80 million in their UK operation, and production will be increased to 22,000 vehicles every year.

Dr George Gillespie, chief executive of the MIRA company co-operating with Geely, who joined Mr Cameron on his visit to China, said: “Having delivered phase one of our work with Geely, we are looking forward to the next 18 months of collaboration...we have high hopes for what we can achieve in China in the future.”

Source ITV news, Evening Standard 

No Pictures, No Gimmicks, Just Jim Thomas

Leon Daniels has now announced he is to dismantle LTPH.

In the latest edition of the badge, it appears the LCDC and Unite were stunned to find out about a secret, unminuted private meeting, TfLTPH had with LTDA vice general secretary Bob Oddy, where Bob was allegedly shown a presentation about the structural changes about to take place at LTPH.

Mr Oddy vigorously denied the claim that he’d been given a full briefing and insisted that he was only shown a brief outline of all the proposals. Apparently, his main concern was that the KOL was not affected in any changes. But Mr. Emmerson said he had seen the presentation given to Mr. Oddy and claimed it to included a slide show outlining the recommendations of the Deloitte review, in regard to compliance and policy.

Just from this statement alone, alarm bells should have been ringing.
Deloitte's, an outside consultancy have made recommendations about changes to compliance and TfL policy???

We were then informed on Friday, that according to TfL's legal team, Private Hire Satellite offices are now allowed to have vehicles waiting outside, just as if they were minicab offices. 
This is in stark contrast to what we have been told previously by James Button, President of the Institute of Licensing, who stated "Private Hire Vehicles can not stand and wait to become hired". Not to mention decades of case law.

We should point out that TfL's legal team have always referred to Mr Buttons book "Button on Taxis- Licensing Law and Practice" in respect to all previous queries about licensing issues.

Why now the change in tact?
When have the laws been change and by who?
Are Deloitte's now making legislation add hoc for the Taxi and PH industries?

How can our so called representatives take this lying down?

It's amazing that LTPH refer to Bob Oddy as the Mayor’s chosen representative of the Taxi Industry on TFL and yet Mr Oddy strenuously denies this claim. I'm in possession of an email and letter, from Mr Oddy's personal solicitors stating that he is no such thing. The letter, is marked in big bold print, "not for publication", another secret kept from the trade perhaps?

Just who IS representing the trade at top level?
  • LTPH, after serving its purpose, is now to be dismantled.
  • No minutes taken at secret meetings between UTG and TfL.
  • No published minutes from joint rank committee meetings with LTPH
  • Law Commission draft bill was not presented. This means its straight into main bill, with a guillotine it will become an act.
  • VOSA, pre-empts Law Commissions aim to create a national standard for Private Hire and Taxi licensing by merging with the Driving Standards Agency and forming  DVSA in advance of a Law Commission submission.

Let's look at the evidence.

1. The Licensed Taxi industry, for the very first time in its history, will no longer enjoy a separate status from other modes of transport. Bundled in with dial a ride, Boris bikes and post Law Commission, possibly licensed Richshaw Bikes.

 2. No formal consultation has been carried out with the Licensed trade organisations, with a TFL boss stating..."There is no requirement for us to formally consult”, inveritably rendering the engagement impotent.

 3. TFL has claimed it gave a full presentation to the taxi industry, but in a private unminuted meeting on the 23rd April this year. LTDA Vice general secretary has vigorously denied this claim. Someone is not telling the truth.

4. Steve Burton, is now the Director of Enforcement & On Street Operations, which includes the new taxi compliance department. Unfortunately for the licensed taxi trade, he was a main instigator for the introduction of the cab trade’s nemesis the “Satellite Office” and actually won an award for the Safer Travel at Night Scheme. 


Monday, December 02, 2013

Eamonn Holmes lets fly over Belfast airport's new taxi system

TV presenter Eamonn Holmes has been left fuming at George Best Belfast City Airport after changes were made to the taxi system.

The This Morning presenter tweeted furiously on Friday night about the recently altered taxi system operating from the airport.

Private Hire Company Value Cabs, has obtained an exclusive front-of-house contract at Belfast City Airport, replacing the public hire black taxi service.

The barrage of angry tweets began on Friday, with one saying: "U COULDN'T MAKE IT UP!!!!! Uproar at the new passenger collection system at Belfast George Best Airport. Worst system ever."

He also attached a picture of a busy queuing area.

The Belfast-born celebrity continued: "U can now seemingly ONLY get a taxi at Belfast City Airport if u BOOK in advance. Please let me interview whoever thought this up!"

He then urged radio broadcaster Stephen Nolan to slam the new system, tweeting: "Please tell me @stephennolan has debated this on Radio Ulster! Complete shambles NI DOE and G Best Airport."

This was followed by: "I thought the idea was to attract people to Belfast? @TourismIreland – stick the boot in! We are a laughing stock!!!!!"

Finally, politicians got their share of the blame with the blast: "Why do NI Politicians allow their biggest (sic) airport to operate like this?"

Under the previous black taxi system it was not necessary to pre-book or stand in a queue with a ticket.

A spokesman for Belfast City Airport said the "slight" change was because of Value Cabs being a private hire firm and, by law, is required to only take passengers who have booked in advance.

"In essence, you have to pre-book by getting a ticket from an office inside the terminal."

Changes to the Taxis Act (Northern Ireland) 2008, which introduced a single licensing system, effectively making all taxis public hire, was scheduled to take effect from September 2013, but has yet to be made law.

The move was delayed by five months last year to let the taxi industry prepare for the change.

It was suggested by then Environment Minister Alex Attwood that allowing the public to hail any taxi would give them more choice and bring prices down.

The outburst from the popular TV presenter comes after the Belfast Telegraph reported on another consequence of the new exclusivity contract between Value Cabs and Belfast City Airport, with travellers paying more than if they chose a rival company.

A £2 supplementary cost is automatically charged and goes towards the airport.

It was condemned by Ukip MLA David McNarry, who warned the airport could get a reputation as being a "rip-off".

He said: "Charging people an extra £2 is an extortion and they shouldn't be allowed to do that."

The £2 levy means that passengers travelling with Value Cabs from the airport to the centre of Belfast will have to pay £10, instead of £8 with a rival firm.

Another recent passenger also slammed the taxi system.

He said he came in on a flight from London last week and went out to the taxi rank, only to be asked: "Have you booked?"

The man said: "In future I'll just call another firm from my mobile when I arrive, as it will be just as fast and I'll also save myself a couple of quid.

"It's not the drivers – the system and law is ridiculous."

Source: Belfast Telegraph 

Compliance officers told by TfL legal department, "Satellite Offices are to be allowed to have vehicles waiting outside": Can This Be Right? Travis B.

We all know what's going on, we've all complained, but it seems no one's listening.

And now it seems they've raised the stakes.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any worse, this tweet from Unites Peter J Rose:

"WOW! Just been told by TfL Compliance team that Satellite Offices are allowed to have a 'certain' number of vehicles waiting outside, just as if it was a 'minicab office'. This has been confirmed by TfL legal apparently. This is no reflection on the Compliance team themselves, they only do as they are instructed to do."

London has finally become a free for all at night. Private hire operators are parking their vehicles wherever they like regardless of parking restrictions....and they are not being penalised. Both the Met Police and local authorities are turning a blind eye to contraventions including parking on disabled bays, 24 hour Bus Lanes and double yellow lines.

It would appear, if a vehicle has a PH roundel, it gets left alone.

Swallow Street awash with Minicabs unlawfully parked in TfL bus lane, unenforced.
Lower Thames Street minicabs double parked outside Old Billingsgate on a 24 hour Red Route.
Kings road by Lotts Road used as a minicab rank on double yellow lines with clipboard man openly touting on pavement.

The loading bays in Charing Cross Road are used every night as a Private Hire rank. The public have to run the gauntlet of open touting to get to the licensed taxi rank, hidden away behind.

The 24 hour bus lane in the Haymarket sees the same PH minibus parked near the junction of Coventry Street every night with the driver openly touting on the pavement.

A practise this driver has been getting away with for years and to our knowledge never once been challenged by TfL tout squad, Met Police STC or ticketed by Westminster.

And so much more.

When Satellite offices were first implemented under the Safer Travel at Night agenda, Joe Royal, then in command of Cab enforcement stated "these operations are completely unenforceable".

What on earth have the United Trade Group been doing with the exclusive engagement rights they were given by Leon Daniels, which excluded the more militant groups?

So what did you get for your £240 subscription this year...
A lanyard, a diary and legal cover. 
Value for money, or are you just financing the gravy train for the chosen few?

Police and local authority turn a blind eye at Fabrics, where private hire operator encourages it's drivers to illegally park on the pavement, blocking emergency exits. Both the local authority and Police, have commended the operator, saying they are doing a great job supplying this service. (Source PH and C magazine)

Unites Peter Rose also tweeted "Parking restrictions are nothing to do with Licensing".
If this is true, then why has Helen Chapman made repeated threats to drivers in TfL notices posted on the TfL website, regarding over-ranking at Victoria and Waterloo, which is in essence a parking issue?