Minutes of a meeting held on 28th March 2012 (10am) at Palestra Building, Blackfriars Rd.
Purpose of the meeting: To discuss TfL’s taxi engagement policy
In attendance: Helen Chapman (HC)(Deputy Director LTPH), Jonathan Myers (JM)(Spokesperson UCG)
Location: Public canteen of Palestra Building
Minutes prepared by: Jonathan Myers
Preamble: I was surprised and disappointed by the venue for the meeting. I do not feel that a public canteen is an appropriate location for a meeting to discuss taxi trade matters, and I am sure that other trade bodies are afforded more dignity when meeting with officials from TfL.
(HC) This was an informal meeting to follow on from a telephone discussion regarding the Engagement Policy, hence the informal setting in the canteen at Palestra so we could discuss the engagement policy over a cup of coffee.
JM opened the meeting by voicing, on behalf of the UCG, his complete opposition to the Engagement Policy.
JM pointed out that he had studied the particular law that created TfL and therefore forms it’s legal framework to carry out business. He could not find anything in this document that allowed one of it’s departments to decided who it engages with and who it refuses to engage with.
JM requested that HC point him in the direction of the primary legislation or statutory instrument that allows LTPH to behave in such a manner.
HC pointed out that the engagement policy was for the formal quarterly trade meetings only and that engagement takes place on a regular basis with any driver or trade group. This includes informal meetings and discussions, telephone calls, responses to emails, requests for information, inclusion in consultations etc. HC also advised that the Engagement Policy was not in place to stop the UCG being invited to the quarterly taxi trade meetings, in fact, the UCG hadn’t even been formed at the time the engagement policy was drafted, but it was designed to create a more manageable situation at formal trade engagement meetings to enable meaningful discussions, in effect a tool to keep numbers down.
HC advised that when John Mason first took up his post, he spent considerable time meeting with drivers and / or organisations that claimed to represent other drivers and it quickly became apparent that an engagement policy was needed to have some sort of clarity over the way in which we engage with the trade. Prior to John Mason taking up his post as Director of London Taxi and Private Hire, all types of engagement with the taxi trade had been sporadic other than the already established quarterly meetings. She used an example that it would not be possible to hire Millwall Football Stadium every time a meeting was called. It was therefore a requirement that for a trade body to be present at these meetings they must represent at least 5% of the trade.
JM told HC that the UCG had 1500 members which represents about 7% of the trade. He also mentioned that there are at least two trade bodies invited to these meetings that represent less than 1000 members and in one case it is rumoured that they have less than 100 members. HC advised that we weren’t discussing the other trade organisations and how many members they do or don’t have. The purpose of the meeting was to specifically discuss the Engagement Policy in relation to the UCG.
JM argued that this Engagement Policy was simply a sham and was a tool to stop both the UCG and RMT attending trade talks. HC denied this and said that this was the first time she had heard how many members the UCG has and that she could take this away to discuss with John Mason.
JM stated that whilst the UCG opposes this policy it has now passed the 5% threshold required to attend and that the UCG would expect an invitation to the next meeting.
HC said that the first step would be for LTPH to be able arrange for an inspection of the UCG membership records, and that these would need to be verified against LTPH’s database of drivers.
JM refused this for two reasons…
1. LTPH have no right to inspect another organisation’s database of members as this is likely to breach the data protection act. It is also the duty of the UCG to protect it’s members right to a private and family life under the convention of human rights. In fact it is extremely inappropriate for a public body to even make such a request.
2. No other trade body has ever had to allow LTPH to inspect its database of members.
A discussion was held about the merits of the Engagement Policy.
JM then gave HC an ultimatum. That LTPH tear up this ultra vires Engagement Policy or they will be making a super complaint to the Local Government Ombudsman.
HC said that she would discuss the fact that the UCG have now formally stated they have 1500 members with John Mason and would respond by have an answer next week, when pushed she suggested Monday 2nd April 2012.
Further discussions were held on the following subjects in a general sense:
• Hotel scams
• One strike and you are out policy
• The 3 year residency rule before a licence can be issued.
The meeting lasted for approximately 2 hours.
Subsequent to the meeting, HC emailed JM later that day to say that having discussed it with John Mason and shared the information and the concern of the UCG to have London Taxi & Private Hire inspecting records that they had come up with an alternative solution by way of a compromise. This alternative solution was that TfL and the UCG could agree a suitable independent person to inspect the UCG membership records on behalf of TfL. This inspection would comprise of no more than a verification of the membership numbers as well as a check of badge numbers against the LTPH system.
JM emailed back rejecting this proposal saying that this had already been vetoed by members.
The United Cabbies Group always insist that all meetings are conducted with transparency and minutes be available for any interested parties to view.