Chair of Licensing
Councillor Lizzie Dean / Councillor Steve Davis
and Licensing Committee Members
Jim Whitelegg / Martin Seymour / HCO
Caroline Lucas MP Peter Kyle MP
Brighton & Hove News
Bcc Trade Members
Open letter to Brighton & Hove City Council 01/02/2021
Dear Lizzie, Steve, Jim & Martin
The Brighton & Hove Taxi Trade Forum Association urgently requests that an Extraordinary Trade Forum meeting is arranged as soon as possible with the council to discuss the following urgent pressing issues:
1: The lack of financial assistance to the trade compared to other areas.
We are very aware that individuals in the trade have contacted the council on this specific matter and well done to all of those that have.
The Trade Forum as a collective and acting for the 1200+ drivers/proprietors now wish to inform you that an online petition is now in place setting out where other licensing authorities have provided financial support to their local trade in recognising the plight that drivers/proprietors are currently suffering.
The petition can be viewed at www.tinyurl.com/cab-covid19
It is respectfully pointed out that other licensing areas have also provided funding for the installation of protective screens for saloon cars.
2: Revised Extension for delaying hackney carriage vehicle licences
Last year the trade were given such an extension for hackney carriages for six months up to September 2020 which was then extended until March this year.
This allowed the proprietor of a hackney carriage vehicle to either take the vehicle off the road or to run it as a personal private vehicle without a council Compliance Test (subject to an MOT certificate being in place) without it be officially licensed subject to the licence fee being paid to reserve the right to hold and operate a hackney carriage vehicle.
This now needs to be extended again...
Private Hire vehicles are licensed under a different system.
3: Replacement of Hackney Carriage Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles
We have been alerted to and wish in turn to alert the Council to the situation where hackney carriage WAV proprietors have now found themselves in a severe financial predicament of where these vehicles need to be replaced under wear and tear. This is where these WAV’s would not be considered economically viable to re-licence as these are now coming to the ‘end of life’ for commercial use. The cost of replacement WAV’s is considerably higher than that of standard saloon vehicles.
Under the circumstances where the trade would be operating normally the financial commitment would not be an issue. However where these WAV proprietors are restricted to the type of vehicles they can bring on... the state of despair about their future in the trade cannot be underestimated.
To clarify the difference between the licensing system between private hire and hackney carriages for those who are not aware:
As the council operates a limit to the number of hackney carriages with a policy of what is known as ‘Managed Growth’ a hackney carriage licence must be in place for the vehicle at all times.
It is also important to make it clear that a vehicle must be in place (on the day of licensing) for the hackney carriage licence to exist.
If the proprietor of a hackney carriage allows the vehicle licence to lapse then for all intentions and purposes the council can issue that licence to the next person who is on the council's waiting list.
Private Hire Vehicles:
There is no limit to private hire vehicle licences therefore in theory and indeed practice the licence for the private hire vehicle can lapse and then be relicensed at a later date providing it meets the current conditions of licensing.
The future state of the local taxi and private hire trade
Over the last three years the local trade has flooded with what we call ‘Out of town’ private hire cars from Southampton... Portsmouth... Chichester.. Havant ...Fareham.... (to name but a few of the areas) but mostly from Lewes.
It is considered that most of the 500+ fleet of Lewes private hire cars predominantly work in Brighton & Hove where they operate without any direct control under Lewes DC Licensing and without the need to comply with the Brighton & Hove Blue Book of Licensing Conditions.
It must be pointed out that Lewes Licensing made a terrible mistake in allowing and indeed supporting the use of magnetic rear and door licence plates and over 100 reports of these being missing from Lewes District Council licensed vehicles have been provided to Lewes Licensing with photographic evidence over the last year alone. These missing plates do not allow for the identification of these vehicles, erodes local licensing control and directly endangers the safety of the local travelling public in Brighton & Hove, and beyond.
This has demonstrated the blasé attitude of drivers predominantly working here that are not locally licensed (by BHCC) and it has been very unfortunate that Lewes Licensing has been extremely slow to remedy the use of magnetic plates that can be easily removed and misused.
The local taxi and private hire trade has had no choice but to act as observers with low morale whilst these vehicles operate in the city beyond the control of Brighton & Hove city council. Whilst fair and equal competition is always good this has not been the case and there has been a massive consequential financial loss in trade to the locally licensed drivers.
And now we have the virus
This last year the local trade has faced a catastrophic downfall of customers and most of the licensed drivers and proprietors are only just able to hang on. Some may have taken advantage of finance holidays for vehicle loans but this was only for a limited period. Conversely, some have had to suffer the indignity of visiting a food bank in order to keep food on their table for their family.
Along with the thee main points as detailed that must be addressed, the state of the mental health and psychological welfare of the drivers and proprietors cannot be underestimated or over stated and is also vitally important to fully record the plight of the Brighton & Hove licensed drivers and proprietors so it is fully recognised by the council in their role as the licensing authority.
Sadly I also have to provide an update that three Brighton & Hove licensed drivers have now died due to the virus with a number of others currently suffering from it having tested positive. Sadly, many of these did not have the luxury of the choice of whether to work or not, even withstanding the risk(s)?
I await you response, but would implore you to act with urgency and without delay.
On behalf of the Brighton & Hove Taxi Trade Forum Association
GMB Brighton & Hove Taxi Section