Uber’s bid to renew its licence is to be heard in public next week following a campaign by taxi drivers.
Hundreds of taxi drivers have also written in to object to the controversial app being allowed to continue trading in the city, with a total of 274 representations opposing the renewal received.
Seven taxi drivers and 26 residents or businesses wrote to support the application, which has been made by the standalone company Uber Brighton and Hove (UBL).
UBL was first granted a year-long operators licence in November 2015, but did not launch in Brighton and Hove until the following October. The licence was renewed for another year, but by the time it applied for another renewal in 2017, its licence had been suspended in London.
Town hall officers decided to renew it for six months with four new conditions relating to the concerns raised by Transport for London attached – not to block officials from using the app, to report serious complaints to the council, to ensure that rides booked by UBL are provided by Brighton drivers and to ensure all UBL drivers have disability equality training.
However, taxi drivers are calling on the council to reject its licence with a lengthy list of challenges, including challenging Uber’s status as an operator, the ongoing TfL appeal, Uber’s failure to report sexual attacks in London and Uber data being hacked.
Drivers also continue to criticise the widespread appearance of Uber drivers licensed outside the city – drivers who are not required to adhere to the strict rules laid down in the city council’s “blue book” of rules, including CCTV and wheelchair accessibility.
In his report to councillors on the licensing panel, head of regulatory services Jim Whitelegg said some of these concerns did not relate to UBL, which only uses Brighton drivers (although out of city drivers are able to use the app via Uber London and other Uber subsidiaries).
However, he did say that councillors may want to question Uber over some issues, such as wheelchair accessibility, a broken promise to ban drivers from picking up rides around Brighton Station and other areas, out of area drivers working in the city and the reporting of serious sexual assaults in London.
In its application, Uber said: “We recognise that Uber is not above criticism and so we have sought to address questions and concerns raised in a full and transparent manner. This includes the range of issues that have been raised by the local trade with regards to Uber’s presence in the city.
“Since we launched, well over 200,000 people have used the service in Brighton and Hove – Uber has become part of daily life for many locals in the city and an essential way visitors get around the city.
“Uber is particularly valued by international visitors to the area, with riders from almost 100 countries using the app in Brighton and Hove in the past three months alone.
“We have not been made aware of any complaints from members of the public to Brighton and Hove City Council regarding our service and we have passed any inspections and satisfied any compliance questions raised.”
It also said that its drivers make on average £18.15 an hour, and it offers discounts on pension schemes and illness insurance, free skills courses, and has set up a pilot driver advisory group in Brighton.
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