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Feb 01

DiaryGate!

Director T&PH John Mason recently responded to our article where he was caught red handed in possession of an orange LTDA carrier bag outside Palestra on Tuesday 24th January 2012.

Here is his response…

Dear United Cabbies Group

I noted with interest the most recent article on your website regarding the taxi driver license checker and other matters.

Firstly, I am sorry you have such a low opinion of myself but I am obviously very pleased to note how highly you respect my Deputy, Helen Chapman.

While I can not and would not want to stand in the way of any action you may wish to take as alluded to in the article I thought you may be interested in the following facts.

The weekend I instructed the license checker to be taken down Helen and I had been contacted by a number of driver groups and drivers. Jim Thomas was indeed in contact with Helen and, at the same time, I was in contact with reps from the LTDA and LCDC who were raising the same concerns.

The letter from Bob Crow (to Peter Hendy, not the Mayor)is regarding the taxi driver identifiers and was received AFTER the meeting I attended with the Mayor and Bob Oddy which had been planned since before Christmas.

The letter from Bob Crow does not threaten legal action unless there is another letter I have not seen.

Grant Davies was not at the meeting when the license checker was discussed.

I did not announce I was going to re-introduce the facility.

The Mayor was not livid and did not shout. We discussed with Bob Oddy the concerns of the trade and we agreed with Bob that taxi driver names should not be made available through such a facility.

I hope this clarifies the matter.

Moving on to finals day at Palestra and the suggestions you make with regards to my involvement and apparent promotion of the LTDA.

Firstly you will not find one licensed taxi driver who I have presented a badge to who will corroborate your absurd allegation that I tell drivers they should join the LTDA. I have never have and never would make such a statement either in the finals presentations or anywhere else for that matter. If one of your members or committee would like to attend a finals presentation then please let me know and you can see exactly what I say for yourself.

In light of the above I respectfully demand a complete retraction of this unfounded allegation.

As for the photos of me outside handing out LTDA bags to candidates. This is simply not the case regardless of what you think you witnessed.

After finals I went down to collect a big brown envelope from the LTDA rep. No, not cash, 4 copies of TAXI. The LTDA rep asked me if I knew Maria (a member of my team) as he had some LTDA diaries for her. My taxi licensing officers find the diaries very useful for key facts a info regarding the trade.

I confirmed I did and he handed the bag with the diaries to me.

I was then approached by Maria and another one of my members of staff who asked the LTDA rep if he had the diaries. I said I had and handed her the bag.

We all the proceeded into Palestra and went back to our business of doing our best to serve the great London taxi and private hire trades as best we can.

I hope this clarifies matters and trust you will put matters straight on your website and, in particular, you will retract the inaccuracies and incorrect statements made about me in your article.

Enjoy your weekend

Kind regards

John Mason

This response does throw up a whole heap of questions which we would like to know the answers to.

Mr Mason claims he went to “collect a big brown envelope from the LTDA rep. No, not cash, 4 copies of TAXI.”

Has Mr Mason also recently, or at any time in the past requested copies of any other Taxi trade publications ie.The Badge, Cab Trade News, The Globe, Taxi Cab News, The Cab Driver or Taxi Talk Magazine? The United Cabbies Group have certainly never had a request from Mr Mason for the fine publication that is United Cabbies News.

The LTDA charge an annual subscription of £24.50 to have a copy of Taxi magazine delivered. Does Mr Mason and T&PH subscribe to Taxi magazine, and if so where does the funding come from to pay the £98 subscription fee for the 4 copies delivered? Does this come from Taxi driver license fees?

Mr Mason claims that the orange LTDA carrier bag in question contained 4 diaries which he accepted as an errand for one of his staff named Maria. Two unknown women then appeared at the scene, one of which Mr Mason claims to be his staff member ‘Maria’, who went to collect the special consignment of diaries from the LTDA rep.

Did Maria pay for these diaries? If so how much did Maria pay for the diaries and where did the funding come from. Did it come from Taxi driver license fees?

If Maria did not pay for the diaires then they must have been a gift, and therefore we ask is it appropriate for TfL staff to accept gifts from a Taxi trade organisation? Have there been any other gifts from Taxi trade organisations to TfL staff whilst Mr Mason has been Director. We can confirm that no gifts of any kind have ever been sent from The United Cabbies Group to any TfL or T&PH staff member whilst Mr Mason has been Director?

Also, have there ever been any gifts from TfL/T&PH staff to any Taxi trade organisations whilst Mr Mason has been Director? If so, who were the gifts sent by, and who were they sent to?

Contrary to some reports, Mr Mason claims to have never suggested or recommended to new Taxi drivers that they should Join the LTDA whilst giving them their final talk before handing them their badges. But are there any ever any LTDA diaries or copies of Taxi magazine, or any other Taxi trade org paraphernalia visibly present when Mr Mason gives his final talk which might influence a new driver’s choice on which trade org to join?

Mr Mason has put an Engagement Policy in place that only applies to some Taxi trade organisations and not the one that supplies him with their merchandise? This exclusion of certain Taxi trade organisations by T&PH could have an effect on which organisation a new driver joins, and therefore we believe that this is a restraint of trade, which under the human rights laws is illegal?

On the PCO Notice 01/12 issued and signed by Mr Mason, he states in the opening paragraphs that ‘TfL were contacted by various Taxi driver groups and individuals expressing concern about their name being made available, but Mr Mason only named the LTDA at the end of the notice, and none of the other various Taxi driver groups or individuals involved. The question must be asked why?

We would also like to know whether Mr Mason has ever fraternised or socialised with any member from a Taxi trade representative organisation outside of normal working offices hours?

Perhaps Mr Mason would like to answer these questions for us, or should we submit them under a freedom of information request?

John Mason has sent us this response…

Dear United Cabbies Group

While I have no real desire to respond to your list of ludicrous questions I feel I have no option given that if I do not you will then submit a Freedom of Information request.

Such requests merely result in even more wasted time and effort of staff in my team and unnecessary costs to taxi drivers through license fees for processing such requests.

In light of the above please find a response to your questions.

Perhaps, having read them, you will perhaps consider this frankly ridiculous “non issue” closed and allow me and my team to focus more important things?

Regards

John Mason
Director – Taxi & Private Hire
4th Floor Yellow
Palestra
197 Blackfriars Road. London. SE1 8NJ

 

Has Mr Mason also recently, or at any time in the past requested copies of any other Taxi trade publications ie.The Badge, Cab Trade News, The Globe, Taxi Cab News, The Cab Driver or Taxi Talk Magazine? The United Cabbies Group have certainly never had a request from Mr Mason for the fine publication that is United Cabbies News.

Yes, I have a couple of times although I do not keep a record of such requests and don’t normally need to make them as they are sent through the post unrequested.

Previously at Penton Street we had a magazine rack on the ground floor and the various magazines and trade press used to come in and keep stocked. We don’t have that facility at Palestra and as we do not have a counter service we do not request or keep trade papers for distribution to students or drivers and any delivered or requested are merely for our own review.

If I feel the need to read UCN then I read the on-line version.

The LTDA charge an annual subscription of £24.50 to have a copy of Taxi magazine delivered. Does Mr Mason and T&PH subscribe to Taxi magazine, and if so where does the funding come from to pay the £98 subscription fee for the 4 copies delivered? Does this come from Taxi driver license fees?

No, we / I do not subscribe to any taxi trade publication. As I indicated above, they are normally sent or dropped off to us, unrequested.

Mr Mason claims that the orange LTDA carrier bag in question contained 4 diaries which he accepted as an errand for one of his staff named Maria. Two unknown women then appeared at the scene, one of which Mr Mason claims to be his staff member ‘Maria’, who went to collect the special consignment of diaries from the LTDA rep.

Did Maria pay for these diaries? If so how much did Maria pay for the diaries and where did the funding come from. Did it come from Taxi driver license fees?

No she did not pay for them.

If Maria did not pay for the diaires then they must have been a gift, and therefore we ask is it appropriate for TfL staff to accept gifts from a Taxi trade organisation?

These are free diaries widely distributed by the LTDA to members and taxi trade stakeholders. They hold absolutely no meaningful value and like any reasonable person I do not believe they are or can be seriously considered as a “gift” or that there is anything untoward with my staff asking for or receiving them.

As I indicated in my original response to your incorrect and misleading article my team find the diaries useful for stats and information, contact information etc. They are not relied upon for my team to do their job but they can assist us sometimes with questions or queries we get.

Have there been any other gifts from Taxi trade organisations to TfL staff whilst Mr Mason has been Director. We can confirm that no gifts of any kind have ever been sent from The United Cabbies Group to any TfL or T&PH staff member whilst Mr Mason has been Director?

No. And I can confirm, without question, no gifts have been sent by the United Cabbies Group and non would ever be accepted.

Also, have there ever been any gifts from TfL/T&PH staff to any Taxi trade organisations whilst Mr Mason has been Director? If so, who were the gifts sent by, and who were they sent to?

No.

Contrary to some reports, Mr Mason claims to have never suggested or recommended to new Taxi drivers that they should Join the LTDA whilst giving them their final talk before handing them their badges. But are there any ever any LTDA diaries or copies of Taxi magazine, or any other Taxi trade org paraphernalia visibly present when Mr Mason gives his final talk which might influence a new driver’s choice on which trade org to join?

No.

I can confirm, without question that there is absolutely no statement or comment made by me regarding the LTDA or any other driver trade organization. As I stated in my response to your original article, you will find no one to corroborate such a “report” as I have never made such comments at finals or anywhere else.

To be very clear – there are also no magazines, papers, diaries, mouse mats, pens, pencils or other “paraphernalia” of the LTDA or any other driver association available, on show or handed out by TfL that could some way sway newly qualified driver to chose one organization or another.

As you are aware increasing numbers of driver associations have recently started to congregate outside Palestra in an attempt to entice drivers to join their particular organization with various offers of goodie bags, lanyards and the like. This is completely outside of my control and is not something we get involved in.

Mr Mason has put an Engagement Policy in place that only applies to some Taxi trade organisations and not the one that supplies him with their merchandise? This exclusion of certain Taxi trade organisations by T&PH could have an effect on which organisation a new driver joins, and therefore we believe that this is a restraint of trade, which under the human rights laws is illegal?

Feel free to take legal advice and pursue a legal course of action on this matter if you wish but please be clear that we do not formally engage with associations that provide us with diaries and are willing to formally engage any association able to meet the policy whether they widely distribute their own diary or not.

On the PCO Notice 01/12 issued and signed by Mr Mason, he states in the opening paragraphs that ‘TfL were contacted by various Taxi driver groups and individuals expressing concern about their name being made available, but Mr Mason only named the LTDA at the end of the notice, and none of the other various Taxi driver groups or individuals involved. The question must be asked why?

I rightly mentioned the LTDA at the end in the context of it was the LTDA that was present when the Mayor committed to this issue. It was the LTDA that was present at the meeting with the Mayor, it was the LTDA who raised the matter with the Mayor and it was to the LTDA who the Mayor made a commitment to that the names would not be provided through the on line facility in the future.

We would also like to know whether Mr Mason has ever fraternised or socialised with any member from a Taxi trade representative organisation outside of normal working offices hours?

Yes. In particular I have attended events such as the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers where I have been present and socialized with members of the taxi trade and taxi driver associations.

Perhaps Mr Mason would like to answer these questions for us, or should we submit them under a freedom of information request?

As I indicated in my covering email. I had no desire to respond to such questions but have done so merely to avoid an FOI from you asking such questions which is unnecessary and would just result in more work and, in particular, additional costs to taxi drivers.

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