An investigation has been launched into Uber cars using Brighton and Hove’s Hackney Carriage taxi ranks as the council says the app firm’s behaviour in the city will be taken into account when renewing its licence this November.
This week, Conservative councillor Lee Wares, who sits on the licensing committee, said that Uber was flouting the spirit of the agreement it made by allowing out of area drivers to pick up fares in Brighton and Hove.
This has been a common complaint of Brighton taxi drivers, who say it’s unfair that drivers from areas such as London, which have fewer licence requirements, are allowed to compete with them. Brighton has one of the most stringent set of requirements for individual drivers licences, known as the blue book, which includes installing CCTV in the taxi.
This is not against national guidelines and the council says it’s perfectly legal for out of area Uber cars to accept fares in Brighton. However, it says it has received complaints about cars parked in Hackney Carriage ranks and these are being investigated.
Councillor Lee Wares, who leads for the Conservative Group on the licensing committee said: “Uber’s commitment to the City and me as one of the Councillors who granted their operators licence was simple; that they would only use Brighton and Hove licensed drivers and vehicles.
“The reason this is important is that drivers and vehicles have to comply with the council’s blue rule book which determines the safety standards of the vehicle, the training and background checks of drivers, identification, the provision of CCTV and the ability for the council to inspect at will any vehicle and any driver.
“Where vehicles or drivers fail inspections, or drivers are subject to complaints, the council can take them off the road.
“However, since Uber’s operator’s licence was granted, the city has been flooded with vehicles and drivers not licensed by Brighton and Hove. It is therefore impossible to know who is licensed or not and with the council having no ability to inspect who has been checked.
“Resident’s freedom to use vehicles operated by Uber exists, however it should be noted that the council’s ability to mitigate risks to their welfare does not. It is important that the standards we operate in this city are the highest they can be and I shall press Uber to achieve this.”
“Uber could, if it wished, block out any vehicle on their app covering the city that is not licensed by Brighton and Hove. It is in its gift if it wishes to play by the same rules as everybody else.”
A council spokeswoman said: “National rules mean that is not an offence for out of city drivers to operate in Brighton and Hove.
“However, it is an offence for vehicles other than vehicles licensed as Hackney Carriages to park on a rank.
“Our licensing team is investigating complaints of vehicles other than Hackney Carriages parking on ranks, and enforcement action will be taken in accordance with the council’s enforcement policy.
“National rules state that the operator, vehicle and driver must all be licensed in the same area.
“As long as Uber follows national rules they can operate in Brighton and Hove irrespective of whether or not they have a Brighton & Hove private hire operator’s licence.
“It is perfectly legal for someone to order a licensed taxi from anywhere in the country, regardless of where that taxi is licensed – as long as that taxi is correctly licensed.
“Granting Uber an operating licence means we can maintain the high standards for those drivers using the Brighton & Hove private hire operator’s licence, by ensuring they meet the requirements of our local regulations.
“Uber’s licence was granted for one year. Should they wish to renew their licence their application will be considered in the normal way. This process would include an assessment of whether they had correctly followed the terms of their current licence.”
Fred Jones, who manages Uber operations in Brighton, said: “Uber abides by the same rules and regulations as all other private hire operators in Brighton. As agreed with the council when our license was renewed – only cars licensed by Brighton and Hove are dispatched under Uber’s Brighton and Hove operator’s license.
“In accordance with national law however, private hire cars licensed in other regions are free to pick up in Brighton as long as they are pre booked and dispatched under the operator’s license they are registered to.
“We have seen a huge increase in demand for our service in Brighton as people want an affordable, safe and convenient ride at the touch of a button.
“Private hire drivers should not wait at taxi ranks for any reason. We work very closely with Brighton and Hove council to support all their investigations and take the appropriate action if Uber partners are parking where they shouldn’t.
“Uber abides by the same rules and regulations as all other private hire operators in Brighton. We have an excellent compliance record, very high standards nationally and a good working relationship with the council.”
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