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GMB PERSPECTIVE


You know how it can be when you take a step back and think: “Sod it”. Well I had one of those moments and thought: “Enough is enough!”


But first let me tell you how the taxi/private hire trade and the council in Brighton & Hove works.


I have always said that we have a really good working relationship with the Licensing Department and Licensing Committee councillors. Certainly from what I know that goes on in other areas I consider that we are very lucky here. We pretty much all know each other by first names and we the repartee is good.


For many years now we have had regular Trade Forum Meetings where the various trade reps from all the different groups and local companies meet up with the licensing officers and councillors. At these meetings there may be guests who speak about specific subjects as well as police representatives who have recently been very helpful regarding bilking.


We discuss all the various trade issues such as ranks and variations in conditions of our ‘Blue Book – Conditions of Licensing’, every three years which we have just completed this year. The trade has recently worked with the council on important subjects such as setting up the CSE/Human Trafficking course which I am pleased to say has been very successful.


The most important focus of the Trade Forum Meetings is that we are all local.... with the local knowledge of our city and its quirks and needs. The ‘local’ trade really knows our city.


So...all in all this has worked really well over the years... Until ‘U’ know who came along with their size 13 boots and began to trample all over the city like Godzilla crushing everything in its path.


I know I have stated the following before but it needs to be stated again.


In Brighton & Hove the local trade has been decimated by cars from Southampton, Portsmouth, Havant, Fareham, Chichester and mainly the huge majority of the 500 cars licensed by Lewes next door where licences have had to be doled out because of lesser requirements needed compared to Brighton & Hove.


We have had the experience of OOT’s (out of town cars) sleeping in the vehicles night in and night out. Uber at one time even directed people on its website to go and get licensed in Lewes if you wanted to work in Brighton & Hove.


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As Uber holds a Brighton & Hove operator licence (won on appeal of a refusal in 2018) an Uber rep would turn up at the Trade Forum Meetings as they would be entitled to. These meetings would be held at the town hall where we would all sit around in the main councils meeting room. This last year the meetings have been via video conferencing - which has been great as I don’t have to get fully dressed as my normal house attire is in shorts.


However... very rarely would the Uber rep contribute anything to the meeting. In fact I always considered that Uber being there was merely a tick-boxing exercise so that it could boast that they were taking part in the trade meet- ings. Well, true Uber would be there, but most of the time the rep would be sitting there with laptop open tippidy- tapping away, and I am damn sure this was nothing to do with the subjects at the meetings. Just to be clear - this is nothing personal against the Uber reps as they are just doing what they are told to do and the last one I have to say was a very pleasant lady - now replaced.


During the last 12 months there have been less appearances of the out-of-town (OOT’s) cars.. but they have still had a presence. So now as we slowly come out of lock-down, with trade still being quite, there has been a steady increase of these OOT’s which is very disheartening for the locally licensed guys and girls who all adhere to the local conditions.


At this point I do have to state that the three major companies in the city have excellent apps and have always offered a first-rate service getting a car to a job in five minutes. Between them over the years since the 90s millions has been spent on technology. In fact visitors to the city have always been impressed with the speed of service. Plus the fact that we all use the councils tariff of fares as the companies run mixed fleets of hackneys and private hire cars. This means the public has always been able to rely on metered fares so they know exactly where they stand.


As I previously mentioned that we have recently revised our ‘Blue Book’ of conditions of licensing and it would take too long to set out how different our conditions of licensing are compared to the OOT’s respective conditions of licensing. But briefly we have compulsory council-controlled CCTV. Lewes doesn’t. So as an individual proprietor we have had to fork out for this whilst Lewes cars have not had to do so.


Also, if you want to run a ‘multi-seater’ cab as a private hire or hackney here, you can only do this if it is a WAV. This of course makes it expensive to comply with. And yet we have Lewes cars predominantly working in the city using those little Toyota saloons that Lewes licenses to take six people. So you can understand how the local Brighton & Hove trade looks at things.


MAY 2021


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