Friday, September 18, 2015

Please Take This TfL Judicial Review Survey.

AskPOB is conducting an independent survey, to establish driver opinion on Transport for London's regulation of the Taxi and Private Hire trades. 

AskPOB is an impartial third party, working in collaboration with trade representative organisations and groups to reach as many drivers as possible and understand in particular whether there is sufficient support for action against TfL...or not.

Therefore we would ask every driver to please comp,tee the survey below 

Did Johnson collude with Arbour to stop Mayors Questions? Dave Davies

Did Boris Johnson collude with Tory AM Tony Arbour to shut down the Mayors Questions for which he had no answers?

Live questions are much harder to spin or avoid than written answers.

James O’Brien  astutely noticed the very deliberate way in which Johnson said ' Luddittes'  in the London Assembly, as if he was deliberately intending to provoke the reaction that he did.


However did people also notice how quickly Tony Arbour the Tory Deputy Chair stopped the meeting?

The taxi drivers in the audience had barely made any disruption before the Luddite comment and even when it was made the noise was no different to that which we see in the house of Commons every week.

If you watch the clip again you will see that Arbour's reaction almost seems pre-meditated ; the way in which he says' Get these people out of here' which could have easily been followed with 'Off with their heads'  was very telling


His comments afterwards confirm that he was completely biased against the taxi  drivers.

He made false statements including that there was a riot and some of which are still showing on the GLA website claiming that staff were punched and one member of staff was 'knocked out'. 

(This person actually fell over)

His false statement has not been challenged by anyone and clearly demonstrates the improper action of Johnson and his cronies

Statement from Tony Arbour AM, Deputy Chairman of the London Assembly


16 September 2015

“Today’s disruption at Mayor’s Question Time was unnecessary and unfortunate.


Several  members of the City Hall security team were punched, pushed and verbally abused. One was knocked unconscious and taken to hospital.  Our understanding is that his condition is now stable and we wish him well soon.


As a result of interruptions from the public gallery, the democratic process was halted and the Mayor and Assembly Members were moved from the Chamber to continue business in another location.


The Assembly is fully aware of the depth of feeling within the licensed taxi industry – but this kind of disruption is unhelpful to the fight for their livelihoods.


The Transport Committee’s cross-party report into the taxi and private hire industries - ‘Future Proof’ made a number of recommendations to the Mayor and Transport for London and we look forward to their implementation.


In the meantime, attending City Hall meetings to watch London government in action is encouraged – but verbal and physical attacks are not.”


This false statement from the Deputy Chair of the Assembly shows the importance of making sure that proper and effective Press Statements are given so that there is at least a possibility balanced view in the media.


The upcoming UCG protests provide an excellent opportunity to get the message out there;

This opportunity will be missed unless the UCG hold a proper Press Conference and get the clear message across to the media that Taxi Drivers are protesting against the utter corruption of Boris Johnson and TFL

   Extra Comment From Sean Day 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

James O'Briens Rip Roaring Rant In Favour Of London's Taxi Drivers

Just incase you missed it, here is the full version of James's takedown of "fraud" Boris Johnson as the LBC presenter defended London cabbies.

James O'Brien branded Boris Johnson a "disgrace" and mounted a rip roaring rant, in defence of London's Taxi Drivers.


Letters to the editor : Alleged insults, collusion and fabrication

I cannot remember the last time London saw such a sustained, systematic and energised cohesive by so many individuals as it did yesterday. To say that it was driver led should be of great concern to the powers that be. 
Boris probably isn't so clever as whily as we make him out to be. 

Most would think strategically, the fact that he was steadfastly keeping to the prescribed agenda, and decided to antagonise an already antagonised crowd has only served to escalate cabbies defiance to take him to task. 

Furthermore, the Chair exasperated the utter rage drivers are feeling by insinuating dehumanisation by referring to those in the gallery as 'these people'.

The very fact that people's lives are being financially and emotionally disrupted with no definite end in sight, and the idea that the monthly faux scrutiny held at the GLA couldn't possibly be disrupted in the slightest, goes to show how detached our bureaucrats become once they move into the glass testicle.

Sean Day

I've had a few people study the webcasts from yesterday and the consensus of opinion is the Mayor's insults were definitely contrived to cause a destructive reaction so he could walk out. 

The heckles could well have been calmed down and Boris should have been asked by the chair to withdraw his insult as in this chamber he's not covered by parliamentary privilege.

After the chamber was cleared, the Chair (Tony Arbour) made a damaging attack on the Taxi trade which was immediately picked up by the media, branding drivers as rioting, aggressive and violent. He also made a claim that three security guards were assaulted and in fact one was knocked unconscious.

This is of course  fabrication and I would expect the LTDA, LCDC, UCG to demand CCTV evidence of any assault. 
If no evidence is forthcoming, we should demand AM Arbour puts out a statement to the press stating he was misinformed about the incident.

Robert Ellis.

Editorial Comment :

Posted yesterday on Twitter and FaceBook

Why should we be expected to believe the statement from the assembly member who wasn't present and discard a statement made by a police officer who was allegedly at the scene?

I think the question should now be asked, why someone with a 'heart condition' has been employed as a security guard, to such an important public building?
Surely these security staff have to have regular medicals, as required of Taxi drivers?

Interview with Grant Davis Chairman of the London Cab Drivers Club 16-09-2015.


Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Boris Causes Chaos, Calling Cabbies Luddites.


Today’s Mayor’s Question Time had to be abandoned after pandemonium broke out when Mayor Boris Johnson referred to assembled Taxi drivers as Luddites.

Because so many drivers turned up for the Mayors Question Time, it was decided the overflow of drivers would hold a separate demonstration along Tooley Street. 

TfL had tried to dilute the situation by cunningly filling the auditorium with TfL student apprentices, leaving many cabbies outside, refused entrance. 

Angry drivers, upset by the Mayor's insults boo'ed and shouted which resulted in Boris running for cover like a rat abandoning in a sinking ship.

When drivers were asked to clear the hall, they refused to budge. News reached the cabbies outside, who heckled and jeered. Heated exchanges took place but there was no riot.
(Propagada story being put about that a security guard was beaten up and knocked out in a riot! ). 
Truth was he fell over opening a door, knocking himself out.

Van loads of police were called in and City hall was forcibly cleared. The Mayors Q&A meeting had to be reconvened in a downstairs bunker.

Drivers leaving City hall then marched on foot to Parliament Square, closely followed by the ever increasing procession of Taxis. Using both Tower and London Bridges, the whole area was soon gridlocked and traffic back up for miles

The protesters converged and marched on past St Paul's, down Fleet Street to the Aldwych where two minicabs, illegally parked on Taxi ranks had the shock of their lives. Surrounded by hundreds of angry taxi drivers and police, they were told firmly to "get off our ranks", which they did!

The march carried on along the Strand entering Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall and finally reached Parliament Square, where they joined the flash Demo of Taxicabs. 

Some protestors then went on to Windsor House, bringing Victoria Street to a stand still.

By 3:30 pm thousands more Taxis had joined in ranging from The Aldwych, Strand, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall to Parliament Square.

UCG, Write To Prime Minister To Request Urgent Meeting To Discuss TfL's Failings.

Dear Prime Minister,

I am writing to you on behalf of the United Cabbies Group ( UCG ) in particular and the London Taxi trade in general.

We are an organisation that represents many Licensed London cabbies, whose livelihoods are under threat as is our iconic trade.

The licensed taxi trade was introduced by Oliver Cromwell in 1654 in an effort to protect the  public by ensuring that all cabbies were of good character, licensed and posed no threat to their passengers.

For 361 years we have adhered to a very strict regulatory standard ,both for drivers and vehicles and are proud that we still do. The reputation of the 'London Cabbie' is recognized as the very best in the world,bar none; a reputation we treasure and live up to on a daily basis. 

Unfortunately we now find ourselves in a situation that threatens not only our very existence but also the safety and well being of the public.

This is simply and solely because of the negligence and abject failure of our regulator Transport for London ( TFL ) who seem to have abrogated all responsibility for the safety and duty of care to the travelling public in our City.

Last year the Greater London Assembly ( GLA ), cogniscent of certain problems in TFL, undertook an independent and in depth investigation into their competence and ability to regulate not only the Licensed London Taxis but also our Private Hire (PH) colleagues.

The conclusion of their thorough investigation was that TFL are ' Woefully Inadequate ' and ' Not Fit For Purpose ' , a view they still hold some 9 months later.

The GLA produced a document called Future Proof in which they identified problems and made 19 recommendations to be implemented ASAP.

TfL ignored the first deadline and the second. Still none of the recommendations have been implemented.

When questioned by the GLA Transport Committee on July 8th 2015 as to why they have done nothing  , Leon Daniels ,Director of Surface Transport Strategy replied they will comply by the end of the year.
The GLA  hold out little hope of this and made their dismay at the 'Laissez faire ' attitude of TfL.

In 2012 a new Private Hire company were issued an operators licence to work in London. That company is UBER.

They obtained a licence under ,shall we say, very lax conditions as an Executive Car Hire service. Within a few months the Executive side was succeeded by a basic mini cab service.

Within a short time Uber were found to be far from the model company their PR machine would have us believe and actually a 'Gung Ho ' company running rough shod over Private Hire regulations to the detriment of many people that registered details with them. 

When questioned about the failings and legality of Uber, Boris Johnson told Grant Davis ; Chairman of the London Cab Drivers Club , that........' He had been told by David Cameron to leave them alone ' !
Mr Davis reported this conversation on live radio ( LBC ) very recently, yet Mr Johnson has not refuted it.

Of course we do not know the veracity of this statement but if true we are sure you did not know the amount of complaints leveled at Uber , their propensity to ignore regulations and the possible danger many of their drivers pose to the public; they are involved in many accidents in London on a daily basis. This is due to two things.

1) A large proportion of Uber drivers have never undergone a British or European Driving Test. They simply exchange the licence from the country of origin for an International License, then exchange that for a European Licence. No stringent test ever taken to prepare them for the difficulties and challenges faced in London

2) The vast majority rely totally on Satnav to guide them on every journey. As you will appreciate one cannot concentrate on the road and the Satnav at the same time; this actin is fraught with danger as many hundreds of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians have found to their cost.
The safety of the travelling public is a prime responsibility of  Transport for London yet they do nothing to address it. Indeed they continue to license with alacrity. 

We hold an archive of in excess of 12000 complaints made by Uber passengers. They range from overcharging to fraudulent use of bank and credit card accounts, sexual assault, homophobia , threatening behaviour and discrimination against disabled passengers A fairly serious and unsavoury litany of complaints, I think you will agree.

On March 18th 2015 the UCG offered TfL unlimited access to our then 8000 complaints against Uber, an offer they roundly ignored. Ignored that is until on June 15th we were invited to meet Tom Watson MP in a committee room at the Palace of Westminster..

At that meeting I and colleagues from the UCG and other trade organisations gave Tom an overview of Uber and TfLs abject dereliction of duty. To say he was shocked would be an understatement. He assured us that he would do all he could to look into the problem. His investigation is still ongoing and we are extremely grateful to him.

It speaks volumes as to the mismanagement and ineptitude of the Mayor of London that TfL has to be investigated by an MP from West Bromwich !

 Mr Cameron,Transport for London are not enforcing their own regulations and have lost control of their responsibility toward Londoners who use PH vehicles.

An average of 2000 PH licences per month are being issued, many with NO background checks whatsoever if the applicant has either Asylum Seeking or Refugee status a certificate of good conduct is then used. This is madness, not only from a safety aspect  but also to congestion and pollution problems. We fail to understand how a an Asylum seeker who by definition is on the run from a regime under threat of imprisonment, tortue or perhaps even death sentence could ever be granted a certificate of good conduct by such a regime, a similar situation to a refugee on the run from a war torn country whose infrastructure is likely to be damaged resulting in little ability to check the status of an individual.

The Mayor said he would like to cap the numbers asap but does little about it. We have sought our own legal advice on this matter and provided it to Isabel Dedring the deputy Mayor for transportation. TfL have consistently stated they cannot cap numbers, Our advice offers potential solutions to this.

Earlier this year we called three protests to highlight the failure of TfL, not because we object to competition, we have worked alongside Private Hire for over 50 years and PH are working with us to resolve the problems that affect them too because of the danger this poses to the public and the envisaged demise of the best loved taxi trade in the world.

We suspended them (protests) temporarily on July 1st  at the request of Tom Watson  to give him time to investigate TfL and the Uber model.

However we are now seeing an unprecedented level of anger toward TfLs  unwillingness to enforce the current laws. Consequently our members asked that we reconsider our suspension.

As a democratic group we gave all members a vote. The result was 90.2% in favour of Direct Action.

Our grievances are as follows.

1) Immediate implementation of all GLA Future Proof  recommendations  

2) Cessation of e-hailing through structured clear defined policy introducing mandatory time lag between hail and dispatch

3) Strong and effective on street enforcement by warranted TFL Enforcement  officers

4) Abolition of Satellite Offices

5) Bob Oddy's position on the TfL transport committee to be subject to a trade nominated and elected candidate

6) Hire and Reward insurance to be in place when any vehicle is licensed by TFL or inspected by NSL .

7) Capping of Private Hire licence numbers in London

8) Cross Border Hiring in London to be made illegal , in line with other Counties.

The UCG do not seek disruption or confrontation but feel that if we don't give a controlled vent of feelings to thousands of cabbies by official demonstration the alternative could be reflective of the Parisian taxi civil disobedience.

We request an urgent meeting with you and Boris Johnson, not only to diffuse the palpable anger but also to enlighten you as to the true failings of TFL and the danger posed by the continued 'Don't touch ' approach to Uber

Best regards, 

Angela Clarkson
UCG Secretary 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Westminster Hall Debate On The Deteriorating State Of Our Trade.

If you have the time, please watch today's Westminster debate on the future of London's Taxi and Private Hire trades.

>Click Here For Full Westminster Debate<

If you'd prefer to read the transcript 

>Click Here<

Editorial Comment

The debate appeared to go well with glowing support for Zac Goldsmith' speech from David Lammy,  Sadiq Khan, Charles Walker  Andrew Rosindell and Victoria Borwick.

Tory MP for the most affected parts of Central London Mark Field (Cities of London and Westminster) played Devils advocate with the expected; 

Its technological change, it's what the public want and would banning uber and rickshaws be detrimental to customer choice? 

but then left before the end of the debate.

It was also bought up that TfL are afraid to ban Uber because of the amount of compensation they would have to shell out after heavily backing them as legal for the last 3 years. 

Statistics given out varied on whoever was speaking showing that research was poor, but the flavour of the debate seemed to be support for the trade.

That is, until on summing up Transport Minister Andrew Jones made it clear that as far as the government were concerned, there was no sense of urgency and they are comfortable with waiting for the Law Commission's recommendations to revamp the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Acts.

He also reiterated that they saw no need to define plying for hire and were happy to go with the Law Com's definition of pre booking, which he said would have the same affect. 

Below is report from web news:

Westminster Hall

Tuesday 15 September 2015 Meeting started at 9.30am, ended 11.29am 

Without efforts to balance the playing field the capital will lose its "iconic" black cabs, Tory MP and London mayor hopeful Zac Goldsmith has warned.

Mr Goldsmith said London's taxis were famous around the world and remained an "absolutely vital" part of the capital's transport system.

The MP for Richmond Park called for "more clarity in the regulatory system" as he voiced concerns that black cabs would be "extinct in a matter of years" without action.

Labour's chosen mayoral candidate Sadiq Khan argued that both TfL and the Government had failed to enforce existing legislation, but also failed to provide new regulations to ensure new entrants to the market operated fairly.

He said: "Rather than a race to the bottom in deregulating the black cab, shouldn't there be innovation of regulation of the private hire vehicles and Uber in particular to make sure there is a level playing field?"

Mr Khan, MP for Tooting, warned the rise in numbers of private hire vehicles in London would lead to problems of further congestion, pollution, illegal parking and "the death of the black cab as we know it".

He urged the Government to bring forward legislation which provided a clear definition to protect the distinction between taxis and private hire vehicles.

He said: "It's really important that the minister responds, it's really important the current mayor responds because if they don't the next mayor will."

Mr Goldsmith said costs were piled onto black cabs by regulation and they were the most regulated taxis in the world by far, while standards among private hire vehicles needed to be raised.

He said: "I think nothing personally of depositing any one of my children in a black cab at any time knowing absolutely that they'd be safe. And it's hard to put a number on all that, but it is worth something and the tragedy is that their days could well be numbered.

"If trends continue I don't think there's any doubt that they will be extinct in a matter of years."

The Tory MP and environmental campaigner said black cabs could ply for hire, wait at ranks, had fares and stringent service standards set by TfL, while private hire vehicles had to be pre-booked, could not legally ply for hire, did not have fares set by TfL, or pass The Knowledge.

He said: "The emergence of Uber has turned the system on its head, because of the speed of the Uber App their cars are effectively hailed by users...The one key advantage enjoyed by black cabs has simply evaporated."

Black cabs, Mr Goldsmith said, should be helped to switch to contactless payment systems, adding there was a case for subsidising the process. He added they were already adapting fast so from 2018 all new black cabs would be zero emission capable.

He said: "I think we do need to try to find a way to maintain the two tier system that distinguishes between cabs and taxis," adding: "I absolutely do not want to deny people the choice that they clearly want and need in London so there's no question of banning Uber, but I do think there is a need to have more clarity in the regulatory system."

Mr Goldsmith said: "It is (an) unarguable fact in my view that without efforts to balance the playing field we will lose the black cab in London, and London I have no doubt will be a lot poorer for it."

Transport Minister Andrew Jones said black cabs were the "gold standard" right across the world.

Responding to Mr Goldsmith's Westminster Hall debate on the future of black cabs in London, Mr Jones said that currently there was no legislation in London or anywhere else which allowed the number of private hire vehicles to be limited.

Officials, he said, were working closely with TfL, adding: "I think we need to look at this issue and develop the evidence required to consider whether... legislation needs to change."

New technology, he noted, was challenging traditional operating boundaries between the taxi and private hire trades and was "straining the relationship" between TfL and the industry.

He said: "The Government is fully aware of changes and challenges that are affecting the taxi and private hire vehicle industry in London and elsewhere within the country."

Mr Jones added he could not yet give a date for when the Government would be responding to the Law Commission 's report on the issue, but added the work had been "extremely powerful".

     David Lammy, Mark Field, Sadiq Khan, Victoria Borwick and Andrew Jones

Operation Neon...Three Months In And Zero Convictions.

We are now three months into Operation Neon and the TfL has just released its compliance statistics.

As of 24th August this year,
a) 3,021 licensed minicabs openly plying for hire have been "advised" to move on (no action taken).
b) 324 will receive a letter "advising them, in future, not to park on a Taxi rank.
c) 1,829 PH drivers will receive a letter "advising them to always wear their photo ID cards.

Would you see this as value for money?

This particular operation hasn't seen one conviction for touting!
Not one conviction for illegally plying for hire !

On the other hand, The Westminster Marshals team issued 758 parking tickets.....well done the Westminster Marshals.

Three months into Operation Neon and still the appointed Taxi ranks in Mayfair are awash with park private hire vehicles, night after night.

Some even forming illegal rolling ranks, obstructing working Taxis from accessing the rank space. 
And yet, compliance teams regularly turn up and report licensed Taxis for over ranking or forming unauthorised ranks.
One compliance officer who told me I should not be over ranking but circulating, turned to her colleague and said,
"These bloody cabbies want it all their own way".

Operation Neon (we were informed by Steve Burton) was initially set up to deter illegally plying for hire and touting, but it would appear, by their actions, compliance teams are now actively facilitating the touts.

In March of this year, Taxi Leaks posted the news that TfL employee John Strutton, had taken over compliance as Interim Head.

We said at that time, it appeared John had all the necessary experience to do the job, if only he would be allowed to do so.But it appears John's interim job didn't transform into a full time posting.

We have now been informed (by the new online TfL Taxi and Private hire magazine) that ex Chief Superintendent Matt Bell MBE, has taken over as head of Compliance.

Chief Superintendent Matt Bell joined the Met in 1985 as a PC in Southwark before joining Woolwich with a promotion. Following spells at Peckham and Bromley, Matt became borough commander for Barking & Dagenham and later Lambeth, before becoming the OCU Commander of the new Roads and Transport Policing Command.

He was awarded an MBE in 2012 for Services to Policing. 

After joining TfL as head of compliance, new boy Matt made this public statement:
"We want touts on the street to be in constant fear of being arrested and dealt with through the justice system" 

For that to happen Matt, first you have to start nicking a few and convicting them! 
Something hasn't been happening !
Up to now, TfL have been woefully inadequate in this department, with only one conviction for illegally plying for hire in the last decade. 

Taking into consideration the statistics released online, a minicab driver, licensed or unlicensed, statistically has more chance of winning the lottery than being convicted of touting or illegally plying for hire in Westminster.

Extra Comment :
We have today been informed that TfL have had 4 convictions in the past three months...2 in Charterhouse Street (City of London), 1 in Clapham High Street (Wandsworth) and 1 at Paddington.

All drivers have been convicted of touting and not having the correct insurance. All have had their DVLA licence suspended for 3 months. 

The brief we received did not mention if these convictions were connected in any way to "Operation Neon" and there has also been no mention of their PH licenses being revoked. 

Anyone in any doubt about how important Wednesday is, watch this video...