Saturday, August 23, 2014

Coventry Street Shocker: Police Refuse To Enforce The Jim Thomas

As I approached Coventry Street late on Thursday night, I observed five minicabs parked behind the Taxi rank with three quarters of their vehicles actually on the pavement.
Amazingly there were four uniformed police officers, complete in hi-visibility coats standing next to the cars, but apparently saying nothing. The officers didn't seem to be in the least bit fazed by this blatant abuse of pavement obstruction. 

I put on the rank and approached the officers. Explaining that in London, since the GLA act of 1974, there has been a blanket ban on cars parked with one or more wheels on the pavement and I politely asked to have these vehicles moved off. One officer said he would attend to this and so I made my way back to my cab. 

But as I watched, the officers were approached and spoken to by the doorman from the Lap dancing club, Premium Lace. The officers then retreated back to their original positions. I got back out of my cab and again confronted the officers.

I was told they were unwilling to assist moving the vehicles as they had been given permission "by the door man", to wait for girls leaving the club as this was a dangerous area. One officer believe it or not, then started to lecture me on the danger of young girls getting into strangers cars in the west end thinking they were, in his words, "Taxis". I pointed to the rank full of licensed Taxis and said "how hard is it for the doorman to escort the girls the few feet to the point of the rank, should they require a Taxi?". 
The officer just shrugged his shoulders and stood behind his colleagues.

I then asked the assembled officers, when the law had been changed to give doorman the power to give permission to touts to park wherever they like.
I also tried to reason with the officers, but they flatly refused to move on the illegally plying for hire touts. 

I spotted three Westminster traffic wardens on the corner of Rupert Street, so I approached and found they were only too pleased to confront the minicabs touts, which quickly sped off. I thanked the wardens and they returned to Rupert Street. But seconds after they turned the corner, a new batch of touts parked on the pavement. 

I told the police officers if they wouldn't help, then I would speak to their sergeant who I could see watching the proceedings, standing by the mobile police HQ on Wardour Street.

I was completely unprepared for what happened next.

I walked up to the sergent and asked if he had a minute. He said "what's the matter" and I then gave full details of how his officers were refusing to move the offending minicabs parking on the pavement. I also outlined the Act of 1974. He just looked at me and said he had "better things to be getting on with". 

I insisted he enforced the law and reminded him he was a public servant, paid to enforce the law which I now wanted him to do.

Then to my surprise he got very aggressive, started pointing his finger in my face and shouting at me. I reminded him that as a police office he had no right to be this aggressive and shouldn't be shouting at me in this manner, in a public place. But he just walked away. 

I couldn't take his number, as I had left my glasses in the Taxi. Unfortunately by the time I got back to the cab, retrieved my glasses and armed with a pen and notepad, he had disappeared 

So there you have it. Boris's 100 bobbies on the beat are there for no more than an impotent, hi-vis PR operation, with no intention of being the zero tolerance model of the NYPD this operation was based on.

But More Seriously:
These officers, by giving permission for minicabs to illegally park outside a club, are sanctioning their approval of open touting. By doing so, they are part of the problem of escalating crime, in Central London, instead of being part of a solution.

The safety of the public is being compromised on a nightly basis by the actions (or should I say non actions) of these officers.

We already know TfL enforcement and compliance fail to enforce the Private Hire Vehicles act of 1998, (when it comes to illegal plying for hire). They instead concentrate mainly on Taxi drivers documentation, Badge and Bill checks. 

We now have conclusive proof that the Police are turning a blind eye wholesale when it comes to touting and illegally plying for hire and are seemingly aiding and abetting touts and sexual predators alike, in the West End. 

With approximately 25 minicab related serious sexual assaults (the Met's own estimate) happening weekly, this is a shameful affaire. 

When questioned about the Met's non-existent enforcement on radio, the Commissioner, Bernard Hogan-Howe just said, Taxi drivers also commit offences every day and left it there.

Editorial Comment:
Later, I went back and spoke at length with the Doorman of Premium Lace who informed me the club doesn't have a satellite office licence . He freely admitted quite a few of the cars parking outside his club are touting. While we were speaking, he did ask a number of cars to wait in Rupert Street and said he had inspected their PDAs to make sure they had bookings. But as soon as the booked cars move, they are replaced by touts. 

Touts are freely operating, completely unhindered by police officers who just stand about watching and doing nothing.

This is not a victimless crime. It has led to a steep rise in serious sexual assaults including rapes.

Why are Westminster City Council not complaining about the police non-action?
The main reason for the London wide blanket ban on pavement parking is in respect of not only obstruction, but damage caused to pavements, which then have to be repaired at a cost to the rate payers.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ice Bucket challenge, Magical Taxi Tour.

I've been nominated by my friend and fellow Taxi driver, Paul Morgan, to do an Ice Bucket challenge. 

I have decided to take the opportunity to raise awareness and perhaps some funds, towards the magnificent Magical Taxi Tour. Not wanting to take anything away from the ALS charity, I will also make a donation to them.

Magical Taxi Tour
Although they have managed to exceed their target for this year, it's a dynamic ongoing event. All donations recieved will help secure this wonderful experience for many others to enjoy on future trips. 

I also get to nominate three others to take on the ice bucket challenge: 
After much deliberation I have decided to nominate fellow Taxi drivers, Mark White, Glen Alutto and Steve Brown (The Parrot).

More about the Magical Taxi Tour:  
Follow on FaceBook, The Children's Magical Tour for Seriously ill children, as they head to Paris Disneyland via P&O Ferries from Dover in a fleet of London Taxis.

This year once again the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers, have organised the three-day trip of a lifetime to Disneyland Paris for children with life threatening diseases. 

A convoy of over 100 London taxis, will be escorted by Police from both London and Paris, London Ambulance Service and AA also assist throughout the trip. 

Putting "Kids in Cabs" is the mission and this annual event is only possible with your continued help and support, along with sponsors who generously donate towards the £1250 per taxi necessary to meet the expense, such as Hotel, fuel, food, admission charges etc. 

As a result of your donations, this tour has brought moments of great joy and happiness to many unfortunate families. Some of the children who went on the last trip won't be going this time. We are filled with sadness that some of these children have died, but with your help we are determined to keep on giving even more children this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Please consider working an extra hour over this bank holiday weekend, for the children.

If you would like to donate just click the link below

< Just click on this link >

Also, you can watch the short clip below.

TfL And Met Turning Blind Eye Over Pedicab Offences. Too Costly To Enforce? Jim Thomas.

Freedom of information searches have shown that the main reason TfL and the Met have not been pursuing legality when it comes to pedicabs, is the matter of cost. Apparently, the do nothing/costs nothing option, is their current choice.

Over the last year many motorised Pedicabs have appeared. Easy to spot by the way the rider doesn't peddle. The police say they are hard to find, (true I suppose if you walked about with your eyes closed).

We have managed to find where these unlicensed motorised vehicle are stored, recharged and hire out, something the Met has been unable or hasn't bothered to do.

Below is an excerpt forwarded to the Law Commission by The Met Police:
Safety problems partly derive from the fact that there are no set standards for the construction and use of the pedicab and no set standards for the vetting of operators or riders to check they are suitable. 

Many pedicabs fail to have working brakes, lighting or seat belts and the high turnover of employees limits the long-term effects of enforcement.

Common unlawful behaviour includes contravention of one-way streets; riding on the footway; blocking the pavement; parking in bus lanes or on pedestrian crossings, and disobeying red lights.

Blocking of bus lanes is particularly problematic, resulting in delays and disruption to planned bus services through what are generally already busy parts of the town centres in which they operate. Obstruction is also a major issue.

TfL have also provided a number of statistics relating to criminal offences and pedicabs in London, where they are perceived to pose a particular problem. 

Statistics from the TfL report include:

Serious sexual assaults by pedicab drivers;
From April 2009 to January 2014, 7 sexual offences have been attributed to pedicabs drivers. (They kept that one quiet!)

A number of thefts and robberies have reportedly been perpetrated by drivers;

There were more than 650 incidents reported in 2013 alone, and twenty personal injury collisions were recorded over the three year period to March 2013.

But...Nothing about the illegal use of motorised rickshaw bikes. Why? 

Surely Public Safety Should Come Before Cost?

There are substantial enforcement costs:
From 2010 to January 2014, TfL funded or part funded over 160 operations against pedicabs, at the cost of almost £65,000, resulting in 389 arrests being made by the Metropolitan Police. That's just 3.74 arrests a week, at a cost of £167 per arrest.

We would assume TfL's compliance or cab enforcement are not involved in this, as their record on illegal plying for hire and satellite office touting by minicabs is significantly below this.

As for the Metropolitan Police Service, the cost of a targeted operation to deal with pedicabs is currently approximately £1,500 each. 

Processing a case is highly time consuming: 
Initial arrest and process takes approximately 4-6 hours to the Metropolitan Police Service. 

Significant time is spent dealing with the criminal justice system and the administration for the restoration of the seized pedicabs.

So The Met and TfL both know what's going on, they just don't know what to do about it.

Cost Benefit Analysis And Summation By Law Commission
(You couldn't make this up)
This impact assessment identifies both monetised and non-monetised impacts of intervention, with the aim of understanding the overall impact on society and the wider environment. The costs and benefits of each option are measured against the “do nothing” option. 

Impact assessments place a strong emphasis on valuing the costs and benefits in monetary terms (including estimating the value of goods and services that are not traded). 

However there are important aspects that cannot sensibly be monetised. These might include impacts on equality, either positive or negative, or enhanced (or diminished) public confidence.

The impact assessment process requires that we make an assessment of the quantifiable costs and benefits even when there is insufficient material on which to base those calculations. 

Where possible we have spoken to practitioners to inform our view of the likely aspects to be affected by the change in policy and have used this as the basis for our calculations. Where it has not been possible to obtain a rough indication of numbers in this way we have had to make a realistic estimate. 

In such cases, we have taken a conservative approach and have tended to use figures that we considered likely to under-estimate benefits and over-estimate costs

So where they have been unable to acquire true facts and figures....they've made them up.

Editorial Conclusion:
Stand by to recieve a recommendation from the Law Commission to licence Rickshaw (Pedicab) vehicles. 
TfL would probably issue temporary permits to the riders as well, as a way of raising revenue.

It's already been alleged that Westminster Council have Traffic Management Orders (TMOs) in place to implement ranks for these bikes, with an eye on selling permits to riders as soon as the recommendations are approved. 

So, Licensed Taxi Rank approval = couple of years
Licence Variation for satellite office = just a few weeks
Pedicab Rank = just a few days.

    Source: Taxi and private hire services IA No: LAWCOM0033
       With special thanks our Manchurian correspondent.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Plan for new Chiswick Conservation Area

Chiswick High Road could become the borough’s latest conservation area, under council plans announced today.

Following a review of the area by the Hounslow Council and English Heritage, the council is proposing creating a new Chiswick High Road Conservation Area.

Recent planning studies have recognised the High Road as an area of special character, and one of the recommendations made was that the council assess these areas for their potential as conservation areas.

The new conservation area has been a possibility since 2001, when it was first raised as a possible westward extension along the High Road of the existing Turnham Green conservation area.

The council is proposing the new conservation area as a distinct and different area due to its differing character reflecting the commercial development that grew up along the High Road in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Cllr Steve Curran, leader of the council, said: “Local people really value and appreciate the style and character of the High Road, and by creating this new conservation area, we will be better able to resist developments that could harm its appearance.”

Comments on the proposals should be sent to byWednesday,27 August 2014.

Greater Manchester Police Stop Taxis, picking up from a taxi rank???

Watch what happened when a licence Taxi Driver try's to pick up from an illegal private hire rank after Manchester Council had erected a  "Taxi rank" sign. 

Sanctioned by Manchester City Council
Condoned by Greater Manchester Police
They try to prevent lawful licensed taxis from picking up at the rank

    With Thanks to Lucy G

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Award Mr George 'Johnny' Johnson (Dambusters) a I'mSpartacus

George 'Johnnny' Johnson served his country during the 2nd World War in Bomber Command as bomb aimer. In 1943, he joined the new elite 617 Squadron, now commonly known as the 'Dambusters'. 

George 'Johnny' Johnson is now the last surviving member of the Dambusters squadron who participated in that operation.

Air crews in Bomber Command were expected to complete 30 operations, mainly at night and very few ever achieved this, usually making the ultimate sacrifice with their life. 

George 'Johnny' Johnson continued to complete a further 20 operations with 617 Squadron, the required amount for a second tour of duty.

In recognition for services and contribution to his country by displaying unconditional courage and gallantry in the face of the enemy and an inspiration to all of his fellow countryman, we call upon Government and all politicians to unite and support the nomination of Mr Johnson in becoming a Knight.

'Dangerous' east London Minicab tout jailed for a year

A minicab tout, who drove along the pavement and at dangerous speeds to escape police, has sentenced to a year in prison.

Mohammed Bilal Hadji, 43, of Newham Way, Newham, was caught illegally trying to pick up customers by an undercover officer in Shaftesbury Avenue.

When asked to exit his car, he locked the doors, mounted the curb and drove 40 metres along the pavement, nearly hitting members of the public and the police.

He then drove over 60 miles per hour in a 20mph zone, through four red lights and in the wrong direction down a one-way street.

He managed to escape from police but officers traced the vehicle from its registration to Hadji's east London address.

When officers arrived Hadji tried to escape but was restrained.

He was arrested for touting, having no insurance and dangerous driving. He pleaded not guilty to the touting and insurance charges but was found guilty at Snaresbrook Crown Court and sent to prison last week.

Acting Chief Superintendent Robert Revill, roads and transport policing command said: "This was an excellent result which has seen an extremely dangerous man who posed a serious risk to the public taken off the streets for a long time.

"He has received a robust judicial outcome, time in jail and a hefty fine for his offences. When he is released he will also have lost his vehicle."

Hadji was also disqualified from driving for 33 months driving disqualification and told he would need to retake his test before he gets behind the wheel again.


Editorial Comment:
The law is too lenient with this type of offence.
This tout mounted the pavement, drove at high speed, through red lights, down a one way street in the wrong direction, in a bid to evaded capture. He could have easily killed pedestrians or other road users.

This offence should carry a minimum of 5 years in prison and banned for life from driving. No one should be allowed back on the road after showing this scale of blatant disregard to others safety.

I have changed the title and part of the article, as the media still have trouble differentiating between a Taxi and a Minicab.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Manchester City Council Make Mess Of Licence Payments Refunds...From Taxi Leaks Manchurian Correspondent

Manchester City Council, rebate on Taxi fee's from funds in Taxi reserve account.

M.C.C. Have overcharged the Taxi/ PH trade on the yearly fees charged.

After an Audit of the year 2012 the external Auditor, Grant Thornton recommended that M.C.C should make refunds.

M.C.C have finally agreed to do this after a threat of Legal Action from the trade. M.C.C intend to do this by giving a rebate of fees charged for the following year from Oct 14 to Oct 15.

But they have done this in a totally unfair and probably unlawful way.

1. New Private hire vehicles get a rebate of £36.
2.  Renewal PH vehicles only get a rebate of only £24. 

A renewal, by its title, means it is someone who has paid a previous fee into the fund.

A new vehicle applicant has not yet paid anything. Yet it gets a larger rebate. How can that be fair. ?
2. Driver renewals.
  An existing driver receives a rebate of £57
  A new applicant gets a rebate of £112 
  New driver's also get a reduction on training and test fee's
  How can somebody who has never been licensed receive a rebate when they have not contributed to any fund ?
3. PH Operators.
  New PH operators get the same rebate as operators who renew. Those that renew have recently overpaid funds.

New Operators have yet to pay anything, how can they get a rebate. ?

M.C.C issued 5434 Drivers licenses in the year ended 2012.
A drivers working life can span 45 years, from the age of 25 to 70 years old.
Dividing 45 into 5434 means on average 120 driver's retire each year. That means an average of 360 driver's have retired in the 3 years this surplus was accrued. 

The proposal to give rebates or refunds over the forthcoming year will give those driver's no opportunity to recover their overpayments.

To exacerbate the injustice of this, many of the recently retired have had to do this on medical grounds. That section of driver are rarely prepared for retirement and many live in penury. The funds available are rightfully theirs, not new applicants.

I would respectfully suggest that M.C.C reviews these unjust proposals.

Editorial Comment:
The United Taxi Group who, between them are alleged to represent over a third of the London Taxi Trade, did nothing when Taxi drivers were overcharged by TfL. The discrepancy took place when NSL took over from SGS. 

Surely the drivers are not responsible for TfL management's financial cockups.
Any shortfall should have been made up from bonuses paid to top bosses

The UTG, ever fearful of being excluded from an engagement policy, took as gospel TfL's excuse for the overcharge. Director of TPH John Mason said they had to make the higher charge for vehicle licences because, SGS had given up the contract early and although the new system under NSL was half the price of SGS, they had already budgeted for the year to the end of that financial period.

Also because the ranks budget wasn't used it would be halved for the following year.where did this money disappear to?

TfL should not be making a profit from drivers, as all money from licence fees is supposedly ring-fenced 
The UTG need to call in auditors and find out exactly where our supples is goining. 

Was it used to pay to bosses massive bonuses for 2012-2013?

Reasons Why Every Taxi Driver Should Attend Next Months Mass Jim Thomas.

Over the last ten years, fundamental flaws have appeared in the licensing process governing Taxis and private hire in London. TfL's bias against the Taxi trade, has never been so pronounced as it is at present. 

PH company's have been licensed on a nod and a wink, disregarding all TFL policy. Rules and regulations appertaining to private hire are now treated as flexible guidelines.  License variations (Satellite Office) have been and still are issued without requirements or conditions of fitness being met.

In The Past:
Addison Lee's vehicles were reported for contravening the conditions of fitness.

Were Griffins minicabs put on stop?
No they were given 9 months to get it sorted.

RD2 were issued multiple variations without first being registered as a PH operator for the required 12 month term. 

When this was reported, did TfL revoke their license?
No, the Director of TPH, John Mason and his deputy Helen Chapman both lied about the issue (covered comprehensively in previous posts). 
When the lies were exposed, TfL issued a statement that they can do what ever they like as TfL policy is flexible and not completely covered by legislation.

Diamond carriages (Diamond cars) clipboard men have been allowed by TfL to operate outside the perimeters of venues.

And now Über!

Über first registered in 2012. The operating centre address on their original license was an accountant's office in the More London building, conveniently situated next to City Hall. No one in their right mind, even with the wildest imagination, could envisage an accountant's office, in the midst of large office complex as a minicab operating centre. Taxi leaks pointed out to TfL that in the last few months, Über were operating from premises in Islington without a licence variation. This was formally reported to TfL.

Did they immediately revoke Über's licence as you would expect?
No they gave them time to sort it out by not investigating or answering the complaint until a licence variation had been issued. 

Another issue that needs addressing ASAP is the appointment of new ranks.

How is it that a PH operator can set up a satellite office in just a few days and yet to get a licensed Taxi rank outside a new Hotel, Bar/Restaurant or other venue, takes many months and in some cases, years?

We know it can be done!
After direct action at Nobu, within weeks, a major new rank was appointed. Same with the Shard.

Is this what it's going to take, conflict and direct action from flash mob type demos?
Should the people of London have to put up with major disruption every time we need a new rank?

It has recently come to our attention that the management of many venues would welcome a licensed Taxi rank outside their premises. But antiquated bureaucracy stops this happening.

1. We need a system in place to fast track rank appointment, much in the way PH get licence variations approved.
2. All ranks need to be enforced efficiently by both the police and local parking services.

Why should drivers have to put themselves on offer to protect work being stolen by bent door staff and organised gangs of touts.

Where is the protection that TfL and the police have a duty of care to provide?

Boris Johnson, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, Sir Peter Hendy, if you're not part of the solution, then you're part of the problem!

Constantly turning a blind eye to what's happening outside these venues, has resulted in serious sexual assaults (including rape) statistics going through the roof. 

The people charged with the responsibility of providing safe transport in London are complicit in the shattering of many young lives and also the lives of their families and it's time these people were held responsible.