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By Peter J Rose

Secretary UNITE Cab Section, London Branch.

On the night of Saturday 2nd October 2010, I was invited by Joe Royal to join members of his team on tour of some of the capital’s touting hotspots to gather intelligence and to gain insight the the operational practices of Safer Transport Command. Other attendees were, Helen Chapman – Deputy Director London Taxi and Private Hire and the LCDC’s Danny Sullivan.

Obviously the taxi trade, through the pages of Cab Trade News and other outlets, is well aware of the seemingly uncontrollable problem of Minicab touts and Clip-board Johnnies. Also its not the first time that the taxi trade reps have been out and about showing the authorities the problems that the taxi trade faces. but this time was different because of the presence of two officers that are ‘on the ground’ at the heart of the problem.

Travelling in an unmarked police car, our first port of call was Shoreditch. There we found the usual scene minicabs parked up or ‘ranking’, Clipboard Jonnies and taxis vying for the attention of the travelling public. Spotting a highly visible Johnnie taking bookings from outside one venue we stopped and observed from the car for a while before investigating further. Mixing in with the punters Joe’s team waited until the Johnnie was approached by a potential customer.once that was achieved the STC officers quickly pulled him aside and informed him of what he was doing wrong, informing him that bookings should only be taken from inside the venue. Something that would be near impossible due to the number of people crammed into the premises, perhaps that is something the Local Council should be looking into? To be fair, this was only a kid, probably trying to earn a little extra cash for himself, he was doing what the holder of the Operating Licence had told him to do. He told us no-one had informed him of the correct way that a booking should be made or the fact that he should only take bookings from inside the venue. Joe’s team and Helen Chapman asked to see the Holder of the Operators Licence. Our Jonnie disappeared for a short while; returning with the owner of the clipboard. Long story short and after some augmentative debate, the operator placed his Johnnie, complete with clipboard inside the venue. STC said that they would return in the next week to ensure that the regulations were still being complied with and to make a full examination of the operator’s records.

This sort of exercise went on for the rest of the night. during which we caught one driver with the TfL pre-booked stickers but no actual licence, illegally touting at Tiger Tiger, this was while Joe’s team were moving un-booked minicabs from outside the premises. We also witnessed people trying to hail moving minicabs in Camden and indeed even the unmarked police car that we were travelling was hailed several times during the course of the night.

So what was learnt during this exercise? the overriding observation is pretty obvious. If TfL LTPH insist this method of operation is to continue, Joe Royle’s team are going to need a vast injection of funds and resources’ something that must be justified given this years 54% increase in cab related sexual offences? Also for the safety of passengers, record keeping requirements are going to have to be more vigorously enforced. During the night I managed to get sight of the way journeys were being recorded. It was obvious that requirements were not being adhered to. The most prominent was the fact that journey destinations were far to vague. Greenwich or Harrow being recorded instead of full addresses or the minimum street name and part postcode

But the most interesting and startling revelation was that many bars and clubs in London only get their drinks licence, if they can aid public order by providing a transport service to take customers away from the area quickly. Hence the birth of the Satellite Office! So COCK UP OR CONSPIRACY?

UNITE Cab Section will continue to campaign for the abolition of the Satellite Office and and end to the Clipboard Johnnie!

Isn’t it time ‘you’ joined us!


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