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UNITE Cab Section recently invited the Deputy Head of London Taxi and Private Hire (LTPH) to a meeting at UNITE House in Holborn to discuss the proposed introduction of taxi driver identifiers onto the front and rear screens of taxis.

The first thing UNITE conveyed to LTPH was that the major issue facing the trade at the moment was illegal minicab touting and the malpractices of on street Clipboard Jonnies which are proving to be devastating to the trade. UNITE does not see the relevance at this time to be putting so much time and effort into a scheme, which is to be paid for through taxi driver’s licence fees, that will make little or no difference to the trades main problem. As you can read in Peter Bond’s report on page eight, over a period in excess of two thousand taxis were examined and only two London Suburban taxi drivers were warned about working out of their area, hardly a major issue compared to that of the minicabs.

This was countered by LTPH saying ‘that savings could be made under the scheme, allowing resources to be to be freed up to help combat the minicab problem’. UNITE said that we found this unacceptable. We argued that the private hire problems should be paid for by private hire and not funded through the back door by the taxi trade. This was again countered by LTPH saying ‘that ‘savings made could also be used for greater taxi On Street Compliance tests’.  Again UNITE finds this unacceptable, especially when the trade never received a full refund when the mid-year test promised by the current Mayor was scraped. It is this money that the trade understood was going to fund more on street testing. This is also on top of the new fifty pounds retest fee at SGS.

UNITE also pointed out that because the identifiers are going to be removable, the possible opportunity for taxi drivers to indulge in taxi identifier swapping would eventually lead to LTPH having to make more on street stops to make sure the taxi driver working the cab had indeed the correct badge and bill to go with their identifier.  This would put the trade back to square one or worse. UNITE also had concerns about counterfeiting possibilities. These were countered by LTPH saying ‘that the identifiers would contain a hologram element’. This will no doubt increase costs still further.

UNITE also expressed severe reservations regarding the system of driver on driver reporting of out of area working. We were told that LTPH would not have the resources to fund a fully manned dedicated phone/email service. Also it was not going to be easy to prove any misdemeanours reported by drivers because of lack of real evidence.  This we feel will lead to increased frustration on the street with the real possibility of driver to driver conflict. We do not feel that issuing guidelines at the time of implementation will be sufficient to stop this possibility.

In short UNITE sees this proposal as a wasteful, ill thought out exercise and an unnecessary added expense to the trade, at a time of economic uncertainty, possible taxi age limits and the continued erosion of the trade throughout London by the activities of illegal touts and Clipboard Johnnies.


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