Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Why Are The Local Authorities Not Dealing With Vehicles From Out Of Town? ...by Lee Ward.

Let’s go back to 1976, the year that the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act was born, the very Act to regulate the Private Hire industry. 

At the start of the debate in regards to this Act, it was referenced by Lord Sandys which the title was held by a Mr Richard Hill of the Conservative Party “the prologue to Plain Words, by Sir Ernest Gowers. 

What he said was this—and I quote his exact words:  Whatever the purpose, the object of the writer will be the same: to make the reader take his meaning readily and precisely”.

I will not bore you with every word in this debate, but what is no surprise is that a lengthy argument was had in regards to the late submission of Part 2 of the LGMPA 1976 in this Act and that very little if anything was consulted upon with the trade at the time, not unlike the Deregulation Act 2015. In fact it was EXACTLY like the discussion for the Deregulation Act 2015 (I know because I am a boring git and read all the Hansard reports on both).

What did come from this, is the fact that each area was allowed to ‘adopt’ the Act and the ones that did then came under the Acts' regulations and the argument to support this was very simple:

Each area can and will have differences in requirements of Vehicles, Drivers and Operators because each of the sections to license those 3 parts of the Private Hire industry have a section for each which states;
A district council may attach to the grant of a licence under this section such conditions as they may consider reasonably necessary.

So let’s look at what this brings us to basically, the intention of the discussions in the Bill before it came to an Act was to ensure that each area kept its own individuality when it adopted the Act. 

This was to support the notion that each area would have different requirements for mainly the driver and the vehicle, such as a driver may not require a knowledge test of the area because the area was so small or very rural or that another area because of the economic climate for the industry did not consider that a driver could afford to replace his vehicle every 5 years. Keep this in mind, we will be coming back to it soon enough...

I want to jump forward a few years now, because up to 2008 the status quo was stable and everyone got on with their own business and in their own licensing area, although the Hackney and Private Hire ‘them and us’ was always there, it was not to the extreme that it is now.

2008 brought the case that I am sure regular readers are aware of, between Newcastle & Berwick upon Tweed, where it was argued (and defeated) that a Hackney can work in any other district as a Private hire Vehicle, well I have my own argument on that which also cover’s the ‘cross border hiring’ or ‘triple license rule’
2012, now that was a year, wasn’t it?

In 2012 Uber were licensed by TfL to operate as a Private Hire company, although they always state that they [Uber] are a Technology Company… pfft, yeah right…

Now here is where the trade, both Taxi and Private Hire failed themselves greatly, because while it launched in London, the rest of the country didn’t see it effecting them. And when it did effect the rest of the country, London didn’t want to join forces. Divide & Conquer at its finest.

From 2012 Uber have grown in numbers so much that London are now considering a new charge to combat pollution and gridlock, to me this a knee jerk reaction to the Genie that they don’t think they can put back in the bottle. 

They are too scared to deal with Uber, as I will remind you all that many other countries and Cities have dealt with them around the world. Some have simply banned them completely for not operating within the regulations that they have while others have actually changed the regulations to suit the Uber model (even paid Australian Taxi driver’s compensation) but the UK has done neither, why not?

So, Uber spread across the UK into towns and cities, but let’s be honest, the towns that they are licensed in are not areas that they wish to actually Operate in, they just want the drivers licensed there to work in the bigger Cities à la London and saturation therein ensues. 

This is because Uber's model is not as efficient as they would like to claim. 
Given the absence of any facility to pre-book or build in a lead time during periods of high demand, the system is reliant on oversupply in order to obviate surging in these periods. The end result is oversupply and saturation which forces drivers to work dangerously long hours at low rates.

The low rates themselves are intended to encourage longer working hours that exceed fatigue thresholds before earning thresholds are reached.

They don’t sub contract bookings like companies do when using for example, a Hackney licensed in another area as a Private Hire driver…oh wait, they changed the law in the Deregulation Act 2015 to sub-contract work from one licensing area to another, I have no idea why in 2008 no one argued that the sub-contracting of work to a Hackney was illegal because the Hackney was licensed elsewhere, or perhaps an Authority relies on its local legal counsel to make argument and they basically are not good enough for the big boys that companies hire…just guessing.

Therefore Uber take bookings and give to drivers in any area licensed by any authority that Uber have an Operator’s license with. Yes, we know the driver accepts the booking, because Uber have told us but that’s not enough for an authority to decide that the Uber platform is illegal and revokes its licence, because they don’t want to send their local legal team up against the countries paid-for finest and lose! 

I mean, when a head of a licensing department has licensed Uber what’s he going to look at, the legal cost or his pension fund?

So back to the bit above, if each local area adopts the Act of 76, then each local area works under the local area conditions, as mentioned before.

Therefore how can a driver licensed in, say Wolverhampton, work in Sheffield, when he and his vehicle licence are to the conditions of Wolverhampton and not Sheffield?

The Act is clear where it states that each authority must keep a record of licences, if it was not with the intention to work within that local area then why was a national data base not required when the Act was written?

You see, it’s the intention and spirit of the Act that is what we are regulated by, not just the wording of it (important part for any authorities legal team to note should you be reading this).

Another little quirk in the wording of the Act that is used consistently throughout is the word ‘a’.

It’s not ‘any’ or ‘all’ it’s the word ‘a,’ the indefinite article and this little one-letter word is pretty important when dealing with Law and Acts.

Follows is a little English lesson, given to me by a good friend Mr Steven Toy when we discussed this matter, I had to learn so you lot can too.

​An article (a, an, some, the) gives information about the noun in the noun phrase. It can:
• Tell us how many there are; if the article is “a” or “an,” we know there’s only one.
• Tell us whether the noun in question is a specific one or just one in general.
• Signal to a reader or listener that a noun is just being introduced or that it’s one he’s already seen in a story.
In the wording of the LGMPA 76 it is always followed by ‘district council’
District means
an area of a country or town that has fixed borders that are used for official purposes, or that has a particular feature that makes it different from surrounding areas:
So we have at all times in the LGMPA 76
​‘a district’
Which then means
​A (a specific) district (area of the country that has fixed borders)

So as you can see, the wording is important to this argument, it means that each licence is a licence to the area where it was issued and has its conditions attached to it. It’s not a licence to work anywhere just because technology advancements enable it to.
I keep reading that technology has surpassed the law, well my car can do 140mph but they have not increased the speed on the motorways, and why? 

Because of the safety to the public!!
By the way, as you can see in the picture, they are quick enough to enforce that law, don’t you think?

Now really, am I looking at this through a different window on my PC to everyone else or is the ‘triple license rule’ really just an excuse that the authorities have jumped on because they don’t want the legal challenge?

So what’s stopping anyone challenge this?

Well, we all are to be honest.

We have way too much diversity and apathy in this trade, and all the while the triple license rule and Uber's working model are becoming more of an accepted way of life instead of an argument that needs addressing.

Only last week, when I challenged one of my local Licensing Officers about Uber and its operating model in regards to the driver accepts the booking, his answer was that they licensed them 2 years ago so what’s changed for them to question the licence?

Apathy from the authorities, not just the trade…

This needs to go through a court of law, and quickly. I will be happy to hold my hand up and say I was wrong if I am proved wrong, but somehow, I don’t think I will be.

How it gets to court is up to all of us, and with the correct representation too, the expensive bit.
But who do we chose?

Well, while one or more of the Orgs decide the best plan of legal attack, and my little Association will not be one of them, I am afraid. Perhaps now is the time for a truly national, cross-tier demo; one showing the whole country that enough is enough. 

A date is set, plans are drawn up and we all join in, regardless of what membership you pay or even if you don’t pay a membership. The time is ripe for this action to be taken; bring the country to a standstill.

Hackney and Private Hire stood together for the first time ever, not against each other but against what is destroying both of our livelihoods, that’s Uber and the likes of TfL and Wolverhampton who facilitate this saturation through greed of income at the expense of public safety, a saturation that puts people’s homes, families and ultimately lives at danger for reasons stated above.

That brings me onto authorities such as Wolverhampton, they disgust me and I believe could cost the Labour Party vital votes for any future Elections (Wolverhampton are a Labour Council)
September last year. I read a Wolverhampton Press article where Councillor Alan Bolshaw stated that the removal of the knowledge test will bring thousands more applicants, but don’t worry, they won’t work in Wolverhampton…. 

And by the way MR Bolshaw, I emailed you in September and have twice asked for a reply, at least have the decency of replying if you are going to flood my City with your vehicles.
Now the judge in the famous Berwick v Newcastle case said that;
“It seems to me it is very difficult to exercise proper control over hackney carriages which are never, or rarely, used in the prescribed area.”
Well that goes exactly the same for PHV, to which Wolverhampton and TfL (among others) are equally as guilty of issuing licenses that they cannot possibly enforce.
This is supported by the Local Government Associations Handbook for authorities on licensing this trade and has been in their handbook since 2010.
First,  I will show you the figures from an FOI that I sent to Wolverhampton regarding the licenses that they have issued.

Now that’s a 466% increase, what a surprise that Uber were issued a license in 2016 with Wolverhampton.
And here is a picture of the places that TfL licensed drivers live in the UK.

So how do these authorities take the license fee from these drivers and then police the drivers and the vehicles? They cantand to me that’s a failure in duty of care, or perhaps maladministration.
Now we compare this map with the map of Ubers Operators licenses….

Sorry, but if I can see what’s happening here and bring this information together, then why can’t the local authorities or the government? 

Who is protecting the public, the people paid to do so or the people that pay them to do so…some irony there I think.
Now I know what authorities are thinking and saying, others let Uber work like this so it must be all ok and therefore we will too.
Well, funny enough, that very same handbook from the LGA was updated very recently and now includes this under the Operator Licensing: Checklist for Councils

Now I may be wrong here, but are not all the suggested checks EXACTLY what myself and the Trade have been banging on about for a few years now?

Surely if the LGA are suggesting that these need to be taken into consideration then they are questions about the legality of Uber and its world-wide App…remember, I still have that fishing rod….

Let’s expand that a little shall we?

Uber, relicensed for 4 month…
Addison Lee, relicensed for 6 month…
A license is issued if you are deemed as fit and proper to hold such license, its not issued as a temporary license because a consultation on costs is under way, its granted on what the conditions are at the time.

Do they really think that we are so stupid here?

These companies, especially Uber could have to pay around #2.4 million for a new license after the consultation and new fees are put in place, and have not appealed the 4 month license, why?
I will tell you why, because TfL have said to Uber, don’t argue about the 4 month license and we will give you the 5 year license but it will cost you #2.4 million…but at least you are still licensed…

Let’s take another snippet from the LGA to ponder here;

You see, it’s not up to the licensing authority to decide what is true or even legal, it’s up to the courts, but the authority cannot make that judgement and should act on accusations, like the well-known saying goes, there is no smoke without fire. 

Just look to Europe and all the countries that have banned Uber to see the smoke, then look at the Toronto case for the fire, with Jo Bertram fuelling it with her confirmation that the driver accepts and Uber back fill in the Tribunal about workers’ rights.

If this was a case brought before the CPS they would be jumping all over it with this kind of evidence.

I will leave this for now, I am sure I have given you all enough to ponder.
Do me a favour though if you will, instead of just reading this, send a link to your local MP, your head of Licensing and its Chairman (a quick finder is on Taxi Leaks side bar for your MP).
Let’s get everyone asking these questions and quickly.
Be safe out there, and don’t worry Semtex, I may have been quiet between rounds mate, but I am still swinging those punches.

And a big thank you to ‘Monsters Inc’ you know who you all are….

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