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Jan 13

UCG Response to the PH Consultation Document

Here is the United Cabbies Group response to the Private Hire Consultation Document as proposed, debated and voted by our members…

DRIVERS

Driver Proposal 1

That TfL introduces additional background requirements with regards to applicants applying to become private hire drivers. Primarily such requirements would aim to improve the overall quality of data and information with regards to an applicant’s possible criminal background. In addition, it would be hoped that such requirements would have a positive effect on the overall quality of the service provided to passengers such as ensuring applicants have a good grasp of the English language, driving on UK roads and safety issues before being licensed.

One such requirement could be a minimum three years UK residency such as that required for some professions or circumstances where applicants may come into contact with children or vulnerable adults as is the case for private hire drivers.

Respondents are asked to consider:

i. Whether they agree that TfL should introduce additional requirements which seek to improve the quality of information available to TfL when making decisions to accept or reject applications for private hire driver licenses.

ii. If there are other methods or mechanisms other than the introduction of a three year minimum UK residency that they feel TfL should consider with regards to the standard licensing requirements for private hire drivers.

UCG Response:

i. The UCG agree that additional requirements are needed, and that a 3 year UK residency should be an absolute minimum. We are surprised that there is no such requirement in place under current regulations. We suggest that a minimum of three years UK residency should be one of the most pressing issues in the private hire sector.

In having this standard would greatly reduce the opportunity for sexual predators, possible terrorists and even Taliban fighters (see Guardian Newspaper) in gaining a private hire licence.

This would also reduce the risk of exploitation by private hire operators of drivers that are new to the country.

It appears that the private hire industry needs a constant flow of labour due to high turnover of drivers. This high turnover is due mainly to the appalling treatment of drivers such as long hours and low pay quite often below the minimum wage.

We cannot see any other mechanism apart from a three year residency rule as CRB checks from most countries are near impossible to obtain.

ii. The UCG believe that all PH drivers should have passed a UK driving test, and have 3 years experience of driving on UK roads, regardless of whether they hold a driving license in another country.

Driver Proposal 2

That TfL introduces a requirement that all applicants for private hire driver licences are required to undertake the enhanced taxi and private hire driving assessment as provided by the Driver Standards Agency (DSA) and required by other licensing authorities.

It is hoped that this additional requirement would have a long term positive impact on the quality of service provided by the private hire trade; in particular those drivers not associated with larger, established private hire companies, and therefore contribute towards safer travel initiatives and enhance the passenger service provided.

At present, the standard charge for this test is £76, or £92 for a test conducted in the evening or at the weekend. Whilst this would add to the cost of becoming a licensed driver, it has been suggested that increasing the commitment required from new drivers would make it more likely that a driver would remain in the trade for some time after becoming licensed, subject to the driver continuing to meet the licensing criteria.

Respondents are asked to consider:

i. Whether they agree that TfL should seek to introduce the additional requirement that applicants will be required to undertake an enhanced driver test. The test would be of a standard no less than the current DSA private hire driving assessment.

ii. Whether they feel such a requirement should be required prior to the issue of a licence or, given the relatively high turnover of private hire drivers, whether a license should be issued on the condition that such a test is taken within the first year of licensing or during the term of the first three year licence?

iii. Whether there are other suggestions or proposals that they feel TfL should consider with regards to improving the overall quality of driving standards of private hire drivers in London.

UCG Response:

i. We fully agree with this proposal. We believe that an enhanced driver test should be undertaken before this issuing of a licence and that the high turnover of drivers should have no influence in this decision.

We believe that an enhanced driving test will add value to being a private hire licence holder and may even reduce the high turnover of drivers.
At present it is too easy to obtain a licence and the licence holder does not value the licence.

ii. We feel that the licence should only be issued once the test has been taken and passed.

iii. We believe all PH drivers should have a good command of the English language to enable them to interpret and have a full understanding of UK road signs.

Driver Proposal 3

That TfL introduces a requirement that all licensed private hire drivers are required to obtain the level 2 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in Road Passenger Vehicle Driving.

Several other Licensing Authorities across England and Wales now require the drivers they license to obtain the level 2 NVQ in Road Passenger Vehicle Driver. TfL feels that such a requirement will provide the most effective way to improve overall driver standards and provide drivers with clear, tailor-made training with regards to their profession as a private hire driver. It is felt that by requiring drivers to go through the well established NVQ process there will be a long term benefit to both the driver and the overall quality of service provided to all passengers.

An outline of the current syllabus for the NVQ is attached as Annex 2.

The following areas are particularly important:

• ‘Smarter’ driving, to reduce harmful emissions and improve fuel economy;
• Road safety awareness and consideration towards other road users;
• Customer service in general and particularly awareness of the needs of disabled passengers.

The need to address the first of these was highlighted in the Mayor’s draft air quality strategy, which proposed that training in this area should be mandatory for taxi and private hire drivers.

As the NVQ involves ‘on the job’ assessment, should this requirement be introduced it is proposed that:

• New applicants would be required to undertake the NVQ within the term of their first three year licence period;

• Existing drivers with more than two years left on their current licence at implementation would be required to obtain the NVQ before their next licence renewal;

• Existing drivers with less than two years left on their current licence at implementation would be required to complete the NVQ within two years of their next licence renewal.

The current qualification typically takes 360 hours of assessment and training, costing between £500 and £1000. Introducing this requirement in London would generate competition between training providers and costs are likely to be towards the lower end of this scale. Some of the costs will be recovered through the reduced fuel consumption that experience suggests will be achieved after ‘smarter driving’ training. Under the regime set out above, drivers would have at least two years to fulfil this requirement, and could spread the cost over this time.

One possible alternative is a Vocationally Related Qualification (VRQ) instead of the assessment based NVQ described above. The VRQ would be knowledge based, and set a standard to be achieved before licensing.

GoSkills, the sector training council, is expected to decide shortly which of these approaches to recommend as the most appropriate, and this recommendation may determine which approach will be eligible for any funding that may be provided.

Respondents are asked to consider:

i. Whether they agree that TfL should seek to introduce additional training requirements for private hire drivers and, if so, whether the NVQ is an appropriate method of meeting this need.

ii. If they feel there are other alternatives TfL should explore with regards to providing or requiring training for private hire drivers.

iii. the proposed programme for implementation of this requirement.

UCG Response:

i. The UCG agree that the NVQ is an appropriate method of meeting this need.

ii. PH drivers should be required to have a full understanding of legislation regarding the PH industry, and should fully understand the difference in laws pertaining to Taxis and private hire, especially the laws regarding plying for hire (touting) and Taxi ranks. A declaration should be signed by every PH driver to show they understand these laws.

iii. We agree with the proposed programme for implementation of this requirement.

Driver Proposal 4

That TfL introduces a requirement that all licensed private hire drivers display identification on the dashboard of their vehicle when the driver is in the vehicle.

Whilst all private hire journeys must be pre booked and as such there should be a clear record of the details of drivers for all journeys undertaken in private hire vehicles, it is suggested that the inclusion of the identification of the driver could further enhance passenger safety. It could also provide reassurance to passengers that they are being transported in a licensed vehicle by a licensed driver and be able to check that the photograph matches the driver. Each driver is issued with a badge, however, primary legislation specifies that the driver must wear this badge when working which means the badge cannot be seen by the passenger.

Display of identification could be improved by a re-design of the driver’s paper licence so that it could be folded and put on display to show relevant information to the passenger such as a photograph of the licensed driver, the licence number and the expiry date. Other information, not necessary for passengers can be contained on the same licence however not visible. It is expected that suitable holders could be obtained for a small cost – less that 50p each and could be added to the licensing process if appropriate.

Other options could include:

• Providing a second badge to remain in the vehicle in addition to the existing ID badge;

• In the longer term, revising the legislation to allow the existing badge to be put on display.

Respondents are asked to consider:

i. Whether they feel that TfL should seek to introduce a requirement to display driver identification on the dashboard of private hire vehicles?

ii. Whether they feel that such a requirement will have a positive impact on passenger safety and reassurance?

iii. If they feel there are other alternatives TfL should explore with regards to improving the availability of driver information to passengers?

UCG Response:

i. We feel that TfL should seek to introduce a requirement to display driver identification on the dashboard of private hire vehicles?

ii. We feel that this will definitely have a positive impact on passenger safety and reassurance because any PH driver who has their personal details on display to passengers would be far less likely to carry out any type of sexual or violent assault or robbery.

iii. We feel an additional requirement should be a notice on display on the dashboard to passengers stating that if they have not pre-booked this vehicle, they are uninsured, as is a requirement in Swindon.

Driver Proposal 5

That TfL introduces a condition in private hire drivers’ licences that ‘Drivers must not make any remark of a sexual nature to a passenger. Licensed drivers are not permitted to become involved sexually, or have sexual contact, even with consent, whilst in a licensed vehicle.

A number of licensing authorities, concerned at the ongoing issues of cab-related sexual assaults and related offences, are considering such a condition for taxi and private hire drivers, along with appropriate processes to prevent abuse. This approach is supported by police forces around the country including the Metropolitan and City Police forces. It would allow a driver’s licence to be revoked on a precautionary basis on the balance of probability and remove the defence that sexual contact was consensual.

A similar proposal will be put forward with regard to taxi drivers.

UCG Response:

We agree that Taxi and PH drivers should not make any remark of a sexual nature to a passenger and should not be permitted to become involved sexually, or have sexual contact, even with consent, whilst in a licensed vehicle. However we strongly believe that a driver’s licence should not be revoked on a precautionary basis on the balance of probability because British law states that a person is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The UCG would encourage and support TfL to press the courts to impose maximum sentences on any driver convicted of any sexual offence.

VEHICLES

Vehicle Proposal 1

That TfL replaces the existing mechanisms used to identify licensed private hire vehicles by introducing a single vehicle identification mechanism which will provide passengers and other road users with a clear understanding that the vehicle is licensed.

This would remove the need for both license discs and ‘red route’ identification stickers, reducing the cost and administrative burden of the existing system while providing greater clarity for the public, for policing of illegal cab activity, and for parking and traffic enforcement.

Other options include:

• Continuation of the existing system utilising a single license disc and additional sticker.

• A single separate licence plate at the rear of the vehicle containing all relevant information.

• A combination of rear licence plates and vehicle livery on the side of the vehicles.

• A plate system which affixes under the number plate of licensed vehicles.

Licence plates will be more expensive than the existing licence discs, but savings will be made with removal of the requirement for the (relatively expensive) red route stickers and associated processing costs for TfL and operators.

Respondents are asked to consider:

i. The effectiveness of the current system in terms of identification of the vehicle as private hire to passengers and other road users?

ii. Whether they feel there is any evidence of confusion from the travelling public in terms of identifying whether a vehicle is a licensed private hire vehicle, taxi or unlicensed?

iii. What they feel would be a suitable alternative to the existing system of identification from the options above?

iv. Whether there needs to be identification at the front as well as the rear of the vehicles?

v. Whether they feel there are other alternatives or suggestions TfL should consider with regards to the identification of private hire vehicles, particularly that would make clear that the car cannot be taken without a booking?

UCG Response:

i. We feel the current system is totally ineffective, as many PH vehicles have darkened glass making the current identification system invisible.

ii. The iconic shape of a licensed London Taxi sets it apart from any other vehicle and we feel there is no confusion concerning Taxis, however we believe that the recent increase in sexual assaults proves that the current PH identification system has failed leading to vulnerable passengers being unable to distinguish between licensed and unlicensed vehicles.

Also, there could be confusion where the Mercedes Vito is concerned and we feel that PH should not be permitted to use this vehicle, as Hackney carriage law states: ‘A Private Hire vehicle must not be of a design and appearance which might lead any person to believe that the vehicle is a London cab.’

iii. We feel that all Private Hire vehicles should display unremovable vinyl stickers stating the vehicle is ‘Insured Only If Pre-booked’ which are stuck to both near and offside front doors. These signs should be of a specific size that is clearly visible from a reasonable distance.

iv.We feel that identification plates should only be fixed to the rear of vehicles to prevent the public unlawfully hailing a oncoming vehicle.

v.We feel that if the above measures were introduced this would suffice.

Vehicle Proposal 2

It has been suggested that in order to maintain the distinction between private hire vehicles and taxis and avoid any confusion for the travelling public with regards to what vehicles can be used to ply for hire that TfL should introduce restrictions on the types of vehicles that can be licensed as private hire vehicles and/or introduce additional requirements or the colour of private hire vehicles and taxis.

In particular it is suggested that:

• Vehicles that are used in other licensing areas as taxis which are purpose built or adapted vehicles with permanent fitted partitions between the driver and passengers and ‘taxi style’ rear facing seating arrangements in the rear should not be licensed as private hire vehicles;

• Vehicles that are used as private hire vehicles (with exemptions for certain types such as limousines or specialised vehicles) are a single, standard colour or have a single standard colour scheme similar to requirements adopted in many other Local Authorities. It has been proposed that a single colour could be silver as this is the most marketable colour if the vehicle is being re-sold in future;

•Similar restrictions may be applied to the colours permitted for taxis.
These requirements could be introduced over a number of years to allow existing vehicles to be phased out of private hire use.

Respondents are asked to consider:

i. Whether they agree that the travelling public are currently confused with regards to what vehicles can ply for hire in London and any evidence they are able to provide to support this?

ii. Whether the possible licensing by TfL of vehicles as private hire vehicles that are used or adapted as taxis in London or in other areas of the UK will lead to increased confusion with passengers?

iii. What they believe passengers feel are the distinctive features of a licensed London taxi that clearly distinguishes it from a private hire vehicle and what evidence they may have to support this?

iv. Whether they believe it is appropriate for TfL to introduce further restrictions on the licensing of certain types and makes of vehicles that may resemble licensed London taxis both externally and internally?

v. Whether they believe it is appropriate for TfL to introduce restrictions/requirements on the colour of taxis and/or private hire vehicles. One example could be that all taxis must be black and that all private hire vehicles can be a particular colour such as silver or any colour other than black?

vi. What, if any, other options TfL should consider in order

UCG Response:

i. Yes we believe the public can be confused as to which vehicles can legally ply for hire, especially when PH vehicles wait on Taxi ranks with
impunity, also, it is confusing for the public when they leave late night venues and are confronted with lines of PH vehicles illegally waiting to be hired. TfL’s own figures show that over 6000 arrests have been made for touting offences, this alone is evidence enough that there is confusion.

ii. Any vehicle that could be mistaken as a Taxi should not be licensed for use as a PH vehicle. This includes vehicles with screens or partitions.

iii. The most distinctive features of a Taxi that distinguish it from a PH vehicle are: The iconic shape, the colour, the meter and the partition.

iv. Yes we believe it is appropriate for TfL to introduce further restrictions on the licensing of certain types of PH vehicles as per Hackney Carriage Law. We also feel that all PH vehicles should have a minimum of 4 doors.

v. We believe that all Taxis should be black in colour. PH vehicles should be any colour other than black, or any colour that resembles black, ie, midnight blue, dark brown etc. We also feel that PH vehicles should not be a single uniform colour because this could attract the attention of the public as they will be looking for a vehicle of a specific colour which will only encourage further touting, therefore defeating the objective.

vi. We believe that TfL should conform with Hackney Carriage Law when making such decisions. (Refer to Vehicle Proposal 1, sub section ii.)

OPERATORS

Operator Proposal 1

It is proposed that private hire operating centres in shared premises should only be granted if the operator has held an existing private hire operator licence for a defined period.

It is felt that this requirement would seek to ensure that all operating centres in shared premises are fully aware of all the relevant requirements of licensing and operating private hire services correctly and appropriately.

Respondents are asked:

i. Whether they agree that restricting applications for private hire operating centres in shared premises is appropriate?

ii. What, if any, other measures TfL should consider (in addition to effective enforcement) to ensure that private operators in shared premises are providing the private hire services in line with requirements and, in particular, ensuring all booking are correctly recorded?

iii. Whether there should be signage requirements for operators?

UCG Response:

i. Yes we agree that restricting applications for private hire operating centres in shared premises is appropriate. The UCG believes that shared operator premises serve no purpose to the Public or to STAN objectives, these offices do no more than confuse the Public, and because of where they are sited, in Launderettes, Kiosks, Alleyways they are impossible to enforce.

ii. We believe that it is imperative that all visits by T & PH compliance officers to PH operators should be unannounced.

iii. All operating centres should have clear PH signage displayed in several languages.

Flashing yellow lights all over the West End surely cannot be what Westminster City Council have in mind for the ambience of their Borough, Planning permission including Health and Safety requirements must me a minimum requirement for any signs, as to the operator’s / TFL /PCO License being displayed next door to the French Model 2nd floor card surely is a bit demeaning for TFL/PCO and confusing for the public.

Operator Proposal 2

That TfL introduce a requirement that all applications for private hire operator licences require evidence to show that one of the following applies:

• Planning consent is not required;

• Planning consent has been applied for and the application is in process, or

•Planning consent has been granted.

Whilst TfL has no role in the granting of planning permission it is felt that they do have a role to play in ensuring that private hire operations are established in a manner where local issues and considerations are taken into account. It is suggested that the current arrangement for allowing private hire operations to be established without TfL checking the status of whether planning permission is required causes problems for residents and local authorities.

Respondents are asked:

i. Whether they agree that planning consent should be checked before granting a licence for an operating centre?

UCG Response:

i. Yes absolutely, as we believe this issue has led to the current problems we are facing today with operating centres in alleys and doorways etc.

Planning permission MUST be a minimum requirement for all Operators Premises, a fire certificate should also be required on the basis that people will be congregating at the main exits.

Operator Proposal 3

A requirement that operators make a commitment to comply with local parking regulations.

At some locations, late at night or through the day, PHVs parking or waiting in the neighbourhood of operating centres causes obstruction and gives rise to complaints.

In addition, drivers waiting with PHVs can easily tout and may give passengers the perception that they are available for hire without a booking.

A commitment to comply with parking restrictions, which could be a condition of the licence for the operating centre, would make operators responsible for the obstruction and confusion that can be caused by these activities.

Respondents are asked:

i. Whether they agree that operators should take responsibility for drivers’ behaviour in this way?

ii. What, if any, other approaches would be appropriate?

UCG Response:

i. Yes, operators should take responsibility for driver’s behaviour, this will ensure the operator relays to the driver the regulations in regard to their conduct. In addition, we believe that any passenger complaints should be directed to T & PH and not the operator, as is the case with Licensed Taxis.

Also T & PH should investigate creating an online system that allows an Operator to register all PH Drivers that are employed by them, if a simple online system is created it would be made the responsibility of the Operator to keep these records up to date. This system would allow a Compliance Officer or a Police Officer to verify details supplied to them instantly, if the system was then cross collated with an individual PH Drivers record a checkable audit trail would be created.

All Operators must be required to keep clear checkable records of all PH Drivers employed by them, Photo ID’S should be issued by Operators to ALL PH Drivers employed by them. All ID’S should have the Operators name and Operator Licence number clearly displayed. It must be the Operators responsibility to ensure upon the termination of a PH Driver employments that the ID is returned. It should be the responsibility of the Operator to inform the PCO if any PH Driver has not returned his ID within a reasonable period of time.

ii. We believe every operating centre should have provisions in place for off street parking, away from public view, as stated in Hackney Carriage Law (White v Cubitt 1929, Gilbert v McKay 1946, Rose v Welbeck 1962 and more recently the Eastbourne case in the year 2000.)

Operator Proposal 4

A requirement that, at every operating centre, a suitable area is identified for bookings to be taken within the property prior to a licence being granted, and a commitment that all bookings must be taken in this designated area.

This would clarify the responsibility to record the details of bookings immediately in the appropriate place, and limit the scope for operators’ staff with clipboards to take bookings elsewhere in and around the premises. In some cases, it might prevent the grant of a licence in a venue where no appropriate place for taking bookings can be found, or in sites such as newsagents where the designated area cannot be suitably identified.

Respondents are asked:

i. Whether they agree that taking of bookings should be restricted in this way?

ii. What, if any, other approaches would be appropriate?

UCG Response:

i. We agree with this 100% as this is the correct way that Satellite offices are ‘supposed’ to operate. It must be established that there is an actual booking area, agreed with the venue owner, inside the venue. There have been numerous incidents where Clipboard operators have admitted to Compliance Officers that there are no facilities available to them inside the venue.

ii. We feel that operators licenses should be renewed yearly, and should automatically become null & void upon change of ownership. This would provide T & PH with further revenue which should be used for enforcement.

Operator Proposal 5

A requirement that operators have arrangements in place to provide accessible vehicles where required if passengers give a reasonable notice period.

This would improve the services available to disabled people, particularly those with mobility impairments, and help operators prepare to meet their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act.

• This could be limited to operators over a certain size.

• This would allow local operators to share access to vehicles.

• Operators would continue to be able to sub-contract to provide this service.

• Transitional arrangements would be permitted to help operators meet the new requirements.

Respondents are asked:

i. Whether they agree that operators should have such arrangements in place?

ii. What exemptions to this obligation would be appropriate?

iii. What issues might arise regarding the cost of these services?

iv. What, if any, other approaches would be appropriate?

UCG Response:

i. Yes we agree that operators should have such arrangements in place.

ii. We believe that there should be no exemptions as this discriminates against disabled passengers.

iii. We think that the costs incurred in providing disabled access should be met by the operators.

iv. All PH vehicles and operating centres should have yellow visibility handles fitted for the benefit of the partially sighted.

Operator Proposal 6

In addition to a two vehicle limit, an operator under a ‘Small operator’ licence would be limited to no more than two drivers and would only be allowed to have one operating centre. Only these Small operators would be licensed to take bookings in residential premises.

The ‘Small operator’ licence, with a reduced fee, allows an operator to have a maximum of two licensed vehicles available for use at one time. Small operators, like other operators, are able to sub-contract to other licensed operators hirings that they cannot fulfil themselves.

It is proposed to clarify the requirements by adding a similar restriction on the number of licensed drivers, and making clear that a small operator can only have one licensed operating centre. Only Small operators would be allowed to licence residential premises as an operating centre.

Respondents are asked:

i. Whether they anticipate difficulties with these additional restrictions on small operators?

UCG Response:

i. Apart from a possible bona- fide Chauffeur operation how could a 2 PH Driver operation make any kind of financial sense, to rent a venue, employ somebody to man the booking facility, and to run only two PH Drivers is not and could never be a realistic financial proposal. This 2 man Operators License is nothing more than an incitement to encourage the Operator to save on License Fees. You would also end up with an impossible scenario of Compliance Officers trying to understand who actually works for who.

Operator Proposal 7

That TfL introduces a requirement that all operators must provide a fixed line telephone number for bookings.

There has been concern that some operators accept bookings by mobile phone, away from the licensed operating centre. Specifying that a fixed ‘landline’ number is provided would strengthen the obligation for bookings to be properly taken and recorded at the licensed centre.

Respondents are asked:

i. Whether they agree that operators should have a landline telephone number for bookings?

ii. What other restrictions might be appropriate to enforce the use of licensed operating centres?

UCG Response:

i. Yes we agree that operators should have a landline telephone number for bookings, this number should have an 02 prefix.

ii. We believe that all operating centres should have a fixed booking counter and waiting area within the premises.

Operator Proposal 8

That TfL introduces a requirement that a standard CRB check must be carried out on the named applicants for an operator’s licence.

The legislation requires TfL to establish that an applicant for an operator licence is a ‘fit and proper person’ to hold that licence.

One aspect of this assessment is that applicants are required to declare any previous unspent convictions.

Previous convictions do not automatically result in refusal but the applicant’s record will be considered with regard to the need to protect the public.

Operator applicants who are, or are applying to be, licensed drivers, are required to submit an enhanced disclosure, and no further information would be sought from these applicants.

Requiring a standard CRB disclosure would prevent deliberate or inadvertent omission of self-declared convictions. The standard disclosure gives information on spent and unspent convictions as well as cautions, reprimands and final warnings held on central police records.

TfL would not take account of spent convictions in assessing applicants for operators’ licences.

Respondents are asked:

i. Whether they agree that applicants for operators should have to submit a CRB disclosure?

UCG Response:

i. For the PCO to suggest that an Operator License holder could be considered a fit and proper person without carrying out an enhanced CRB check beggars belief. Any applicant to be an operator whether an individual or the Directors of a Limited Company should be subjected to enhanced CRB checks. Confirmed ID of the individuals or Directors should also be sought by sight of a valid passport.

Operator Proposal 9

That TfL introduces a requirement that the issuing of a private hire operators licence within a third party venue is restricted to those premises only where there is a clear need to provide the public with a suitable transport option through private hire services directly from that venue.

Respondents are asked to consider:

i. Whether TfL should restrict private hire operations in 3rd party venues.

ii. What restrictions respondents feel are appropriate and why.

UCG Response:

i. Yes we believe TfL should restrict private hire operations in 3rd party venues.

ii. All Operating centres should be subject to Planning permission, fire checks etc, also that the venue is fit for purpose, no license should be granted if the operator does not have provisions for off street parking away from the view of the public as per Hackney Carriage Law. No license should be issued to an operator where another operator exists within 500 yards of the premises and venues should install a freephone direct line to local PH offices, this would remove the need for clipboard operators.

APPENDIX:
In addition to the above UCG proposals we would like to suggest the following:

We feel the above proposals would go a long way to addressing the obvious problems, however these would be futile without sufficient enforcement, we suggest that significantly increasing PH license fees would raise the required revenue to fund increased enforcement. This revenue should be solely raised from PH drivers and operators and not Taxis as the vast majority of these problems eminate from the PH sector.

We believe that significantly increasing PH license fees will reduce the number of new applicants, and this would have a positive affect on reducing the serious touting issues we are witnessing. There is an ever increasing number of PH drivers competing for the same work in the current economic climate, this forces many PH drivers to tout work illegally from the street. This would go a long way to bypassing the issue of TfL being unable to cap the number of PH licenses issued.
We believe that referring to PH drivers and operators as ‘Licensed’ is the wrong terminology, we feel the correct term should be ‘Registered’ as this confuses the travelling public that they can hire a Private Hire vehicle from the street.
We feel that the problem of touting by PH also stems from the lack of Taxi ranks outside venues. John Mason Director of T & PH has previously stated that it is logistically impossible to install a Taxi rank outside every venue with a Satellite office, however PH persistently park illegally outside most venues with impunity.
Local Authority Civil Enforcement Officers (CEO’s) appear to tolerate illegally parked PH vehicles outside venues, allowing touting to flourish.
We believe TfL enforcement officers should work more closely with local authorities to reduce the amount of illegally parked PH vehicles outside venues, especially during the current heightened security status that London finds itself in. Considering the recent terrorist attempt outside Tiger Tiger nightclub in The Haymarket, we fear lessons have not been learnt.

Here is an idea to clamp down on those who register their vehicle as Private Hire simply to avoid the congestion charge…

There is a big problem with People applying for a PH license for the purpose of avoiding the congestion charge, this is something that must be close to John Masons Heart. First John Mason sends out a directive to all PH license Holders to the effect that if a current Hire and Reward policy is not in force on your vehicle then you are not congestion charge exempt.

This would be very easy to Police, because it could all be automated as follows

CC camera takes registration number, it is checked and an exemption is noted, at this point it is checked against the H&R Insurance Database, no H&R then the vehicle is treated as any other private car. this procedure could be completed within 2 seconds.

Some of the PH outfits have fleet policies, and some will of course claim that the vehicle is covered on that policy, no problem as this considered ambiguity is noted by the PH enforcement teams, and the next time they carry out an inspection they will seek an audit trail for that vehicle. ie. the Driver Records, and invoicing and payment records for the vehicle and Driver.

To give you an example when you are audited by VAT, they always take details of any large invoices that you have claimed a VAT refund on, the details are then stored and when the Company who issued the invoice is inspected by the VAT, they look for that entry on the books to confirm that the VAT has been paid. A big fiddle for most small businesses is for someone to get a friend to issue them with a large invoice, then they issue a credit note to offset against the invoice, however this person then puts the invoice but not the credit note through their books and claims the VAT.

The congestion charge is going up in January to around £2500 per annum, hire and reward insurance without any no claims would be coming in around £2000 per annum, therefore no fool would spend £2k plus the cost of 2 MOT’S a year and the license to save £2500. Also any records generated manually would be in date and time order, and any records created by computer would be in record order, now if you knew you could be randomly audited, and you could be facing a fraud charge, would it be worth the effort.

As far as we are aware our Cabs are not Bus Lane exempt or congestion charge exempt if the plate has run out, this is not enforced by the camera looking at your plate it is done by ANPR checking against your exemption.

Even if they employed individuals to do this, an individual would only have to catch 1 vehicle per month to make this revenue neutral, with the ANPR database doing all the work, and the fact that up to now PH licenses have been issued without audit. IMHO they would be catching 1 a day in the first few months, then the deterrent effect would kick in and lawful legal process kicks in. TFL would raise revenue and journeys would be cut, a win win situation.

This concludes the United Cabbies Group response to the Private Hire Consultation Document.

Thank you.

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