I have another meeting with Lewes DC next week along with Sean Ridley of Unite and George Beresforth ..Independent rep
This was my original statement to Brighton & Hove HNews which I fully expected to be edited down:
We are very pleased that Lewes District Council has now taken steps to bring the conditions of licensing for LDC hackney carriage and private hire vehicles.
As the conditions of Brighton and Hove licence vehicles are much higher than that of Lewes DC, Uber was giving recruiting information on its website by providing the comparison of time and costs to obtain licences between Brighton & Hove and Lewes DC to be able to work in Brighton & Hove.
Brighton & Hove
Total estimated cost of obtaining a PHDL: £1112
Total estimated time to obtain a PHDL: 40 weeks
Total estimated cost of obtaining a PHVL: £134
Total estimated time to obtain a PHVL: 2 weeks
Total estimated cost of obtaining a PHDL: £422
Total estimated time to obtain a PHDL: 8 weeks
Total estimated cost of obtaining a PHVL: £186
Total estimated time to obtain a PHVL: 2 Weeks
This is due to Uber in creating ‘Mythical Uber Regions’ in an attempt to calve up the UK and to reinvent the UK Licensing Authority areas by dividing the UK into nine ‘ Mythical Regional’ areas. This can only be seen as an attempt by Uber to create extraordinary larger licensing areas to try to change national Legislation via ‘Uber Stealth’.
Brighton & Hove is in the ‘ South East Uber Mythical Region’ and Uber is encouraging out-of-town hackney carriage and private hire vehicle’s such as those from Lewes DC to predominantly work in Brighton & Hove
The difference in the standards required was put to the Licensing Panel at the Brighton & Hove Uber Renewal Hearing in April 2018 by the GMB and referred to by the Panel when the Uber representatives were questioned as to why its website looked as if it was encouraging drivers to obtain a licence in Lewes DC to predominantly work in Brighton & Hove.
A meeting between myself and the Unite representative Sean Ridley on April 18 2018 with Lewes DC raised the issue of Lewes DC being used as the lower end of licensing requirements for drivers who have no intention of ever working in Lewes DC because of the lower Conditions of Licensing
This is the result of the Deregulation Act 2015 which allowed what is known as ‘Cross Border Hiring’ which has been exploited by the likes of Uber to use drivers and vehicles from licensing authorities which have lower standards of licensing requirements to predominantly work in areas that have much higher standards. This is exactly why cities such as Brighton & Hove have been flooded with out of town private hire drivers/vehicles from places such as Reigate & Banstead, Sefton and Wolverhampton. Wolverhampton is by far the worst culprit having issued some 7500 + licences in 2017 compared to a mere 700 in 2014.
What will now happen is that ring fenced licensing revenue from those Licensing Authorities f higher conditions of licensing will now drop as cheaper and fast track licensing will be sought from councils with lower requirements.
In fact in 2017 Uber attempted to lower the standards of the licensing requirements of Brighton & Hove City Council in the removal of the ‘Knowledge test’ as the Uber legal representative stated that the use of SatNavs was in fact better. Fortunately the local councillors put Uber straight on the this and refused the proposal.
At the time of our meeting with Lewes DC we were told that there was a backlog of around eight weeks as council had been flooded with applications for licences since Uber had given out information that it was cheaper and quicker to obtain a licence there rather than in Brighton & Hove if the intention was to predominantly work in Brighton & Hove.
However at the time our meeting with Lewes DC we were informed that the current ‘Conditions of Licensing’ were now being looked at with the view for a complete overhaul and this could not come soon enough.
Historically Lewes DC would only have a few driver & vehicles applications a week but this took a dramatic upturn since that announcement on the Uber website resulting in the backlog and we can express some sympathy for Lewes DC as it has been exploited by Uber for its own cause.
Because of the flood of Lewes DC vehicles predominantly working in Brighton & Hove over the last few months the Brighton & Hove trade have has supplied Lewes DC with countless reports of its licensed vehicles not complying with the current ‘Conditions of Licensing’ where the driver/proprietor and even the council itself have breached its own Conditions of Licensing.
We have had to alert Lewes DC about ‘Dual Plating’ whereby the council does not allow a vehicle to be licensed in one area as well as in Lewes DC which the council contravened.
Additionally we had to alert the Lewes DC about issuing a licence plate to a saloon vehicle that stated it was licensed to carry 5 people where this was clearly wrong along with Lewes DC drivers removing signage for whatever reasons.
Currently there are numerous Lewes DC hackney carriage and private hire vehicles showing expired licence dates on the vehicle plates
Effectively the Brighton & Hove trade has become the unpaid policing of Lewes DC private hire and hackney carriage vehicles.
However after months of the trade lobbying both Lewes DC and Brighton & Hove City Council we are pleased that Concordant Arrangements have now been put in place which means that the Brighton & Hove Enforcement Officers who make regular checks on the local licensed vehicles now have the power to carry out the same inspections on Lewes DC drivers and vehicles. We will now monitor the costs of this to ensure that the Brighton & Hove trade will not be paying for Brighton & Hove Council to be the exclusive Enforcement body of Lewes DC drivers and vehicles.
We are pleased that Adur DC have also granted the council with the same ‘Enforcement’ powers on Adur licensed vehicles but unfortunately other licensing authorities have refused to do the same.
Lewes DC Revision of Licensing Conditions
It is now very encouraging that Lewes DC appear to be taking responsibility in instigation a revision of the Conditions of Licensing. However we are greatly concerned where it has been reported that:
“The penalty for prospective taxi drivers found cheating on a knowledge test is also set to increase, with the introduction of a three-year ban. Currently a prospective driver found cheating on the test will be barred from re-taking the test for one year only.”
Just that statement alone puts Lewes DC in a concerning perspective.
Surely any potential driver of a Lewes DC licensed vehicle that has been “...found cheating on a knowledge test..” should be banned for life as that person is supposed to be ‘Fit and Proper’ to hold a licence to have the full responsibility for the wellbeing and safety of the public. Indeed it hardly compliments any licensed Lewes DC driver as no one will ever know if such a driver had previously tried to cheat the system.