SIMON RUSH, PHV DRIVER AND PRESIDENT OF THE GMB PRO DRIVERS’ BRANCH, DISCUSSES ISSUES OF CONCERN TO THE TRADE IN THE CAPITAL
COUNCIL CASH PLAN – Many London boroughs are struggling at the moment and this is often forced on them by Central Government, who have removed funds during this time of austerity, especially hitting Labour-run councils.
These local authorities, no doubt taking the lead from London’s City Hall, seem to have decided that the private hire and black cab trade are cash cows to be milked and bled dry.
Most of you already know that Westminster, one of London’s wealthiest boroughs, plans to charge older diesel vehicles 50 per cent more for having the audacity of parking in the West End, while the driver goes about his business. Be it helping a vulnerable cab passenger or a major business deal.
But how is this sensible with Brexit coming? And for our members and the wider London cab trade, it’s just an extra expense we have to consider when working.
And when you add in the possible removal of the Congestion Charge exemption for PHV vehicles, plus the extra ULEZ fee, it could be a total charge of £25 for older vehicles and will affect the lowest paid private hire drivers the hardest.
We feel that TfL and the London councils have, as Baldrick from the Blackadder TV show said: “A very, very cunning plan!”
The “cunning plan” is obvious. TfL has printed off private hire licences like confetti and taking our money at an ever-increasing rate. But, now they need to force us out of the trade, to reduce our numbers, by stealth.
But, there is worse to come. The councils in Hackney and Islington, as highlighted in the Evening Standard and on the BBC news, want to ban all diesel / petrol and older hybrid vehicles from certain streets in the two boroughs. The penalty for daring to enter? A fine of £130!
Yes, it’s good to cut emission levels, but most private hire drivers cannot afford to go electric or hybrid. This proposed move by the two local authorities suggests they have little understanding of workers or their income.
Perhaps they think the vehicles will just vanish, not take up more space on surrounding roads and create extra pollution on those roads, which will in turn, become ever more congested?
Passengers use private hire because it is convenient and takes them door-to-door, often when there are no other means to do so. It is also called having a freedom of choice.
This is about to be taken away from them in Hackney and Islington and there is also the possibility that some passengers may get abusive or violent if we can’t take them where they want to go to.
And what about the punter carrying heavy shopping or the disabled passenger, who if we refuse to take them to their destination, may have a claim under the Equalities Act 2010?
It is also quite possibly a restriction of trade. Private hire and taxi drivers have a Transport for London licence to work in all areas and now it appears that certain councils have decided that we can’t.
And mark our words, this “cunning plan” will spread right across London if we don’t try and stop it now.
Hackney and Islington plan to restrict access to nine streets, at first, between the hours of 7am to 10am and between 4pm and 7pm and the GMB is going to request that TfL exempts the licensed cab trade so we can do our job.
UBER SMOKE SCREEN?
Uber’s recent announcement that their drivers will only work in the ‘region’ they are licensed is not quite the hand of compromise it might first appear to be. There is still the very real risk of cross border problems as drivers will still be able to commute between licensing authorities within the various areas.
Former Professional Drivers’ Branch secretary and now GMB regional officer Steve Garelick said:
It seems again that Uber is acting in what is expedient for its business model in order to claim that it is listening in relation to safety matters. Cities such as Sheffield will continue to see drivers from other areas such as Leeds, York and Scarborough, working in the city due to the sheer size of the Yorkshire ‘geofence’. Apart from inundating London licensing with further drivers, this will lead to higher insurance bills for drivers and further delays with licence applications.