PHC Magazine takes a look at the stories that made headlines over the last two decades….
MINICAB LEGISLATION: The regulation of the minicab industry by the Private Hire Vehicles (London) 1998 Act was welcomed by most of the trade. But some drivers, who started work before licensing came in, were left jobless by the new requirements of the DVLA Group 2 Medical rules.
One such man was Michael Schofield. He worked as a minicab driver for 13 years before the1998 Act, but the Public Carriage Office (PCO) rejected his driver licence application in November 2003 because of sight problems in his left eye. They told him:
In the interests of safety your temporary licence has been revoked immediately
A report from the Moorfield Eye Hospital said that Michael had passed his field-of-vision and co-ordination sight test “superably”. But the PCO rejected his appeal and the case went to the High Court in 2014.
Michael’s barrister, funded by the GMB union, planned to argue that the minicab driver had been discriminated against, under European Human Rights legislation, because his eyesight was good enough to pass the hackney carriage Group 2 DVLA medical criteria in 1991.
But, on the day of the hearing, PCO service delivery and standards manager Sandy Edwards produced a killer piece of new evidence which showed that taxi driver medical rules in 1991 had been even more stringent than the DVLA Group 2 requirements.
So, in the space of a few minutes, Michael lost his appeal, his job and his ability to earn a living. Speaking to PHC outside the court he said: “The whole thing was a shambles. The result means that my livelihood has been taken away. I don’t know any other job and it really is quite unfair.”
RICKSHAW RIDERS FACING NEW REGS: The London pedicab trade was the new kid on the London transport block in the early noughties and facing licensing and regulation by the PCO over complaints about gridlocked streets in the West End.
“No Thanks” said the black cabs, who wanted the rickshaws outlawed not legitimised. Bob Oddy of the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) demanded their prohibition, saying:
They are death traps which could tip over if they touch the kerb or take corners at speed. Licensing won’t make any difference at all, we want them banned
But Logan Townsend of pedicab firm Bugbugs, who won a test case against the LTDA in the High Court the previous year, said: “I think the LTDA just want to see us disappear. But the public want to use us and it is really just a simple matter of supply and demand.
“We would actually like to see the PCO regulating the industry, as at present, self regulation is no good if everyone doesn’t join in. We need regulation to ensure all operators are subject to a code of conduct.”
CABBIES TAKING THE PEE?
Taxi drivers came under fire from furious residents in Paddington, West London, who accused the cabbies of using their street as a public toilet.
House and flat owners in Gloucester Square claimed that black cab drivers were urinating in the street and made a number of complaints to the Public Carriage Office.
Resident Peter Shashas, who wrote over 50 letters to the licensing authority, said:
This foul public display even happens in broad daylight with children playing in the garden. The smell is overpowering. Frankly they are just too lazy to get out of their cabs
In reply, a PCO spokesman said: “We are taking this issue very seriously. We issue a strict warning to drivers when complaints have been made. None of them have re-offended because it would lead to a licence suspension.”
ON THE ROAD: Terence Flanagan of the GMB union wrote a monthly drivers’ in PHC Magazine and did not mince his words when it came to taking the fight to phv operators who he claimed were treating his members badly.
Tis the season of cheer and goodwill to all mankind, oh yeah? What about the double rent swindle over Christmas? Only you can stop it. Tell your operator to eff off and cover their own account work. If they mess up on their account swindles at Xmas they will probably lose their entire account. So who is holding all the aces? You! Do not pay it – stand up for yourselves!!!
“Also, in our experience, chauffeur companies are the most disgusting immoral exploiters in the private hire industry. Public safety and the drivers’ safety matters not one iota. It’s just, let’s make money baby.
“What I don’t understand is why you chauffeurs stand for it? Have none of you got any backbone? Fifteen hour days for £80, no holiday pay, no sick pay and no pension. Stop grovelling, join us and we will sort the b*stards out.”
CROYDON COUNCIL UNDER FIRE: The South London local authority was slammed by child welfare organisations after it used unlicensed companies and drivers to ferry school children and social service patients around the borough, in what was known at the time as the “contract loophole”.
Croydon was one of several councils to use cheap unregulated firms and drivers to provide transport which, although perfectly legal, was considered by many to be too high a risk to take with young, elderly and mentally disabled passengers.
Director of children’s charity Kidscape, Michelle Elliot said the council was negligent and was:
Putting the most vulnerable children in the hands of people who are operating outside of the law. Do we have to wait until a child is harmed before the policy is reversed?
Director of Croydon Mencap Venessa Djanogly agreed and said that the council’s policy of using unlicensed firms was “unacceptable”.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport said that ministers were looking to close the loophole “as soon as possible” – but it would be another two years before the revised legislation actually made it onto the statute books.
SAFER TRAVEL AT NIGHT UPDATE
A seminar at City Hall hosted by London mayor Ken Livingstone highlighted the progress of the two year campaign to drive down the number of sex attacks by touts.
The mayor said he was pleased that assaults on women by illegal drivers were down by a third from 212 in 2002 to 140 in 2004 and that the number of rapes was also down from 54 to 32. However, he was concerned that the courts in London were not applying the maximum sentences available to them, saying:
It would be nice if the magistrates would wake up and realise how serious the problem of touting really is
Ed Thompson, PCO director of private hire & taxis, told Mr Livingstone that the licensing of London’s private hire industry had been “successful” but that he was still concerned about the attitude of the public to the using drivers that had not been booked.
Despite a fall in the number of people prepared to use touts, over 50 per cent of those questioned in a survey thought they were a part of London’s legitimate transport system. Mr Thompson said it was vital to “keep the victims away from the villains”.
TOUT CONFESSION: A South London private hire driver claimed he was paid so little that he was forced to tout and take illegal work from the street to make ends meet. In one example, the un-named driver said he had been asked by three men in Smithfield Market to take them to Cambridge. “They said they would give me £160, which is about the going rate, but without the company taking their share. Of course it’s illegal but what else can you do? It’s a ridiculous state of affairs, but I’m forced to do it, just to make ends meet. I’m a professional driver but I’m paid peanuts.”
FURTHER LYNX STRIKE ACTION?
Courier firm Lynx Express was facing industrial action by drivers after 300 Transport & General Workers Union members staged a two day strike in rejection of a four per cent pay offer. Union officials said 86 per cent of their members were in favour of industrial action but the Lynx management said the strike was “an isolated incident” and had little support among the wider workforce.
ADDISON LEE SNAPS UP ANDERSON YOUNG: Addison Lee bought out the private hire section of west London firm Anderson Young (AY) for an undisclosed sum, leaving the courier arm of the firm with AY owner Malcolm Young. The new addition to Addison Lee’s fleet reinforced its position as the largest cab firm in London, but there were rumblings of discontent from some AY staff about possible redundancies and rumoured changes in work place practices.
LOZ – DIARY OF A DESPATCH RIDER: PHC’s courier columnist was out and about on the chilly streets of London but not sure what the festive season would stuff into his yuletide stocking.
“Christmas is almost upon us and once again my mind turns to the extremely unfair difference between the presents I actually want and what I’ll probably get.
I will just have to accept that Cameron Diaz will yet again be unable to accept my request to leave her exclusive Hollywood mansion for my one bedroom flat in Finchley for a mammoth bout of festive fornication
“She doesn’t know what she’s missing. The fog and pollution on Finchley High Street can match the smog of Los Angeles any day of the week.
“I will also have to come to terms with the fact that the ‘lucky’ sprig of mistletoe given to me by a gypsy woman in Covent Garden will not give me the winning Christmas lottery numbers after all.
“Actually, to say that she ‘gave’ it to me does not quite accurately describe how I came by the limp and rather sorry twig. As I walked past the festering old hag, she screamed “BE LUCKY!” and thrust the mistletoe into my hand before demanding payment. Happy Christmas indeed.”
COMPANY FINED FOR ILLEGAL DELIVERIES: Deltec was fined £17,000 with £60,000 costs at Bow Street Magistrates Court and was the first company in Britain to be prosecuted for delivering letters without a licence. The firm was charged and found guilty on 11 counts under Section 6 of the Postal Services Act 2000.
Deltec managing director Barry Ellis was also convicted on several counts under Section 120 for Conniving in, consenting to, and being neglectful of the offences by the company.
Chairman of the UK postal services regulator, Postcomm, Nigel Stapleton said:
Deltec was made aware on a number of occasions that it required a licence and chose to act outside the law. All legitimate operators must have licences and we will take firm action against anybody who deliberately operates without one