The decision on whether Uber can have a private hire vehicle operator’s licence in Brighton and Hove will not be made public today (Monday 19 October).
Uber applied for a licence from Brighton and Hove City Council and today a council licensing panel heard from the company and a number of people concerned about the Uber app.
The panel of three councillors was chaired by Mo Marsh who said that a decision would not be made public this afternoon. She was joined by Dee Simson and Lizzie Deane.
Uber applied to run its operations in Brighton from an office in Tower Point, in North Road, Brighton, in the name of Uber Britannia Ltd.
Three people from the company addressed the licensing panel at Brighton Town Hall – legal director, Matthew Wilson, the head of public policy Andrew Byrne and general manager Max Lines.
John Streeter, the vice-chairman of Brighton and Hove Streamline, said that his business and his drivers operated to high standards.
These included, for example, ensuring a proportion of wheelchair-accessible vehicles and catering for passengers with disabilities with other needs.
Mr Streeter said: “We have no problem with Uber and we welcome competition.
“If they can comply with every item in the Blue Book that we have to comply with today, then issue them the licence. If they can’t, then don’t.
“We just want them to compete on a level playing field.
“We welcome Uber. If they can comply with everything – and they’ve had six months now – then issue them with a licence.
“We want to maintain the standards we’ve worked hard to achieve. The safety of the public is paramount.”
Former council leader Mary Mears, who represents Rottingdean Coastal ward on the council, said: “Successive administrations have worked very hard over many years to ensure that people using taxis and private hire vehicles are safe.”
Councillor Mears said that the conditions applied across the trade should be open, transparent and fair.
She said: “I do understand concerns raised by local authorities as Uber is owned by a multimillion-pound company, and the threat of being sued is a real concern, but I feel as a council our duty is to protect the most vulnerable by refusing a licence.
“They should have the same conditions as every other operator. That protects the council from being sued for not treating people fairly.”
She said that those conditions included having CCTV in cabs.
Other objections were made by licensing consultant David Wilson, the company secretary of the Campaign Against Unlawful Taxis In Our Nation (Caution), and Martin Walker, the operations manager of Star Cars and Coaches, in Birmingham.
Mr Lines, from Uber, said that the company did offer wheelchair-accessible vehicles and training for drivers to help passengers with disabilities.
His colleague Mr Byrne defended the company’s practice of “surge pricing”, saying that it encouraged more drivers to get behind the wheel at busy times. He also said that it also encouraged some passengers to delay their journeys so they wouldn’t have to pay a higher price.
Uber said that it would be happy to observe the same conditions as other operators.
Mr Byrne said: “We will adhere to any of the conditions in the Blue Book (the rulebook for cabs in Brighton and Hove) as it applies to everyone else.
“We want to fit in with the rest of the industry in Brighton.”
He added: “The level of attention we get is slightly disproportionate to the level of innovation that we deliver.
“Since the start of the year 85,000 people living in Brighton and Hove have downloaded the Uber app.
“They want to benefit from the convenience, price and safety of the Uber app.”
A decision is expected to be published in the next day or two.
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