To note information on out of area private hire vehicles, and to agree steps to take in response.
Haseeb Hanif of Taylor Hanson Ltd, a local private hire taxi company attended the meeting to speak in support of the recommendations, and to explain about the impact of Uber on local trade. Mr Hanif raised concerns that private hire work had diminished since Uber began trading in Bracknell Forest, and asked Members to protect the private hire trade.
Mr Hanif suggested that Reading Borough Council had banned Uber drivers from operating in their area, however the Licensing Officer clarified that this was not the case.
Charlie Fletcher, Licensing Officer introduced the report which had arisen following a petition submitted by the local taxi trade and a meeting between officers and the trade. It was explained that although the Council had no legal authority to prevent out of area operators from working in the borough, concerns had been raised about the lack of assurance of the quality of Uber drivers as officers in Bracknell Forest had no authority to conduct inspections or provide training or testing. Transport for London who licenced Uber drivers do not require a practice or first aid assessment, as is the case with drivers licensed by Bracknell Forest.
The matter was not unique to Bracknell Forest, and the Licensing Officer gave a number of examples of other authorities who had written to the Secretary of State on the matter.
The Committee noted with interest the recommendation of a Government Task and Finish group on Taxis and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing which called for all journeys in hackney carriages or private hire vehicles to start and/or end within the area to which the driver, vehicle and operator are licensed.
In discussion, the following points were noted:
· It was hoped that as the matter required a change in national legislation, the Council could only raise awareness of government to the issue.
· Members suggested that both Members of Parliament for the borough be written to, to include Adam Afriye.
· It was clarified that Bracknell Forest and Wokingham were at the edge of the London region licensed by Transport for London.
· Any complaints about Uber drivers would be sent to Uber or Transport for London, and so it was not known whether there had been any complaints locally about Uber drivers.
· It was clarified that Uber vehicles did not require any distinctive markings and were not easily recognisable. A wide range of vehicles were permitted for use as Uber vehicles.
· Although it was possible to request a disabled accessible vehicle from Uber, it was not common to find these outside of London.
· There had been relatively few altercations on taxi stands between private hire operators and Uber drivers, and officers encouraged the trade to report any such incidents.
Members commented that they wished to support the trade as much as possible, and would do what was possible to address the issue.
Following discussion, the Committee RESOLVED that:
i) The contents of the report be noted
ii) The relevant Minister of State and local Member of Parliament for Bracknell and Windsor and Maidenhead be formally written to, to bring to their attention this Council’s concerns regarding the current licensing legislative framework
iii) Transport for London be formally written to, setting out the concerns of this
Council with the current licensing arrangements and ask that they consider if licence conditions could be used to rectify the current situation.
iv) The Local Government Association and Institute for Licensing be formally written to, to bring to their attention this Councils concerns regarding the current licensing legislative framework.