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...GMB PERSPECTIVE.... ACCESS DENIED - ACCESS DENIED - ACCESS DENIED


We can’t stop the OOT’s (out of town cars) working in the city here... and there are hun- dreds... but our policy is that if you are not licensed by Brighton & Hove City Council and choose to predominantly work here


after gaining your ‘soft licence’ from another licensing authority then we are going to make damn sure that you abide by your own licensing conditions.


This means that if your vehicle has specific livery then we will make sure that if you do not display this correctly then a report goes to your licensing authority.


At this point I have to state that Lewes District Council has the highest amount of proprietors of private hire vehicles that breach vehicle licensing conditions pro-rata. LDC allows magnetic council door livery/repeater plates which we consider to be not fit for purpose having found these laying in the road and various other places.


This is one of the ironies of ‘cross border hiring’. Due to public safety where these can easily be removed and illegally used. Brighton & Hove Council does not allow magnetic door signs but OOT’s can.


Around 100 reports have been sent in to LDC licensing for miss- ing livery and licence plates but because of the chaotic administration nothing has improved. And yet under an FOI request we found that the council had an excess of £165,000 after expenses from licensing fees. Even with this massive ‘profit’ (which we are following up) LDC has an archaic system for access to the Public Register for licensing.


We know that under the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 the obligation is that a council must hold a list of licensed drivers which is accessible to the public. In years gone by this would have been available for the public to access at the local town hall. Oddly there no obligation to hold a Public Register for licensed vehicles?


However I would believe that most councils do go that one step further and have lists for all drivers, vehicles and operators which are available to access online 24/7/365. My own licens- ing authority Brighton & Hove City Council has this as well as other councils that have their private hire vehicles predomi- nantly working here, such a Southampton, Portsmouth and Chichester. With a few taps on the keyboard anyone can check the validity of a vehicle that appears to be licensed with the local licensing authority.


However along with Lewes DC there is Havant Borough Council as well as Fareham Borough Council who do not have instant online access for all the three licences.


At this point I do have to state that Lewes DC has always supplied me with an Excel list of licensed drivers and vehicles for


84


both hackney carriage and private hire. However this of course becomes out of date as soon as it is sent to me.


As the day that I am writing this is apparently ‘Back to the Future Day’ I would like go back over thirty-five years ago where everything in the trade was so very different. It is so strange to compare what it was like then to what it is like now. It was a very rare occurrence seeing a vehicle not licensed by Brighton & Hove Council in the city. Of course these vehicles brought people here but then disappeared. No hanging around under the infamous ‘Triple Lock’ on an app. In fact a mobile phone back then would have pretty much been like witchcraft and then only to make a brief and very expensive call and play Snake.


The point being is that us local drivers in the city could very eas- ily spot the odd potential rogue car here. Maybe a chancer up to no good, looking for the vulnerable young girl walking back from the pub and offering a free ‘cab’ home.


The first port of call back then was to use the office radio to get dispatch to inform the police of these incidents. As time went on and we started to buy those ‘Nokia Bricks’ we could do that directly.


We were the ‘eyes and ears’ in the city and as a cab driver you developed a sixth-sense of where something may not be right. Sadly that extra security has been completely decimated up and down the country with the likes of Uber encouraging private hire drivers to work anywhere and everywhere and overwhelming the local trade with so many different cars from different areas with differing licensing conditions.


However where the up-to-date licensing authorities have an online Public Register we can at least instantly check for vehicles that work here without any licence plate or door livery to see if these are licensed by any particular council. Indeed we have


NOVEMBER 2020


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