The London Taxi Branch of RMT has called for unity especially in relation to the severe challenges that wait ahead. All London trade groups were invited to attend a meeting which took place at the Royal National Hotel, Bloomsbury on March 19th.
Amongst those who attended were the United Cabbies Group (UCG), Heathrow Airport Licensed Taxi Drivers Unite (HATDU), the London Suburban Taxi Drivers Association, the Edgware Licensed Taxi Drivers Association and the London Suburban Coalition. Conspicuous by their absence were the LTDA, LCDC and Unite who obviously have their own agenda. All these other organisations were invited. HALT were also invited.
The meeting was called not only to discuss trade unity but also to prepare a strategy for the forthcoming Law Commission Review on Taxi and Private Hire Licensing in the UK including London. This review is to take place between April and June and could mean substantial changes to the way that taxis and private hire is licensed in the UK. Currently there are two sets of legislation which govern licensing in England and Wales; the Town and Police Clauses Act 1847 together with the Local Government (Miscallaneous Provisions) Act 1976. London is slightly more complicated and much of the legislation that governs London Taxis is contained within the various London Hackney Carriage Acts, the Metropolitan Public Carriage Act 1869 and those that regulate private hire (phv) fall within several Acts which govern PHV driver licensing and also vehicle and premises licensing.
What had become apparent over a period of time was that many drivers who were denied the opportunity to license their vehicles in one local authority as hackney carriages were able to license them in adjacent licensing areas and ostensibly work as private hire in their preferred areas. This meant that drivers could work anywhere in the UK as phv but their vehicles would be plated as hackney carriages in the chosen licensing area. This has made a mockery of the licensing system and because of this and other factors has meant that there will be a review and the danger for London is that subsequent legislation will seek to level the playing field and dispense with hackney carriages altogether. This is simplistically put but contains the essence of upheaval which would penetrate to London if the trade did not put up a strong challenge. RMT London Taxis has already faced this challenge and wants to be prepared to put forward a strong argument at the appropriate time.
LTDA RELY ON BORIS.
It appears that the LTDA and LCDC are relying on Boris to get the trade out of what would be a very big hole. In a recent copy of The Badge a letter sent by Boris to the Law Commission made a plea on behalf of the trade. So that’s as much as the LTDA and LCDC will do. Rely on Boris? Boris may not even be Mayor by the time the review is published so what value does his letter have? The parameters of the review have not yet been published and it is not just a case of keeping the status quo. It is also a matter of redressing those existing issues which are problematical. For example, satellite offices, the provision of taxi stands at night venues where clip-board johnnies run wild, and the enforcement of phv which all taxi drivers in London will know is a big joke. It wouldn’t be too bad but a few years ago a passenger who had been at University with Boris stated that he was unreliable as a human being. Makes you think.
KEY OUTCOMES OF TRADE UNITY MEETING.
The key outcomes of the meeting were as follows:
That a meeting should be called with the Law Commission to discuss their outline plans.
A recognition that the current system of licensing in London is glaringly inadequate in relation to the way that phv is policed and controlled.
That there should be a binding legal definition of plying for hire in any subsequent legislation using existing case law as guidance.
That there should be more adequate enforcement of phv both in the suburbs and in Central London.
That there should be a new requirement and arrangements for satellite offices in that where there is an application for a satellite office, then there should be the automatic provision of rank spaces outside the venue. Where this is not possible then there should be no allocation of a licence for a satellite office.
That the crisis of suburban sector viability would not be resolved by the suspension of new entrants to yellow badge knowledge as this would only have an effect in the long term. This could only be achieved by the provision of sufficient rank spaces in suburban areas.
That the current system of ranks appointments, the joint ranks committee, the funding of ranks and implementation of them is currently not for fit for purpose. You have to ask yourself who currently sits at these rank meetings. Need we say more; LTDA, LCDC and Unite.
That there should be a provision of more rank spaces where there is likely to be a large volume of potential work. Also there should be a review of suburban sectors to ensure that potential passenger demand is served and such a review should ensure adequate driver knowledge. Such matters should be properly funded and should also include a structured management environment to ensure that demands are met without leading to an over provision in any one area to the detriment of all.
That there should be meetings with the Mayor and Deputy Mayor and other politicians to resolve the concerns expressed at the meeting. Notwithstanding any such involvement with the politicians at TfL and GLA, the delegates at the meeting resolved to bring these issues to the attention of the public by way of high profile events (demos) if such meetings were not forthcoming. There was agreement that all licensees have an equal right to be heard and that all policies that were discriminatory or divisive would be vigorously campaigned against.
The meeting was held in a spirit of goodwill and cooperation and it was pointed out that those trade organisations who had not attended would be welcome to attend any future meetings without precondition for promotion of a common cause which was to ensure a sustainable taxi trade in London for the 21st Century. RMT London Taxi Branch sponsored the meeting and it should be noted that RMT have taken an active interest in the outcome of the Law Commission and wish to ensure that any deliberations and conclusions do not impact on the London Taxi trade in a negative manner.