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Brighton taxi drivers step up fight against deregulation
Brighton taxi drivers have launched a campaign against the deregulation of the industry, which they claim could put public safety at risk.
Under current licensing regulations, companies can only handle bookings they have taken themselves through their own operators.
But amendments added to a government Bill would allow private hire companies to subcontract work to other operators in another area, and would allow ordinary drivers to drive private hire vehicles when they are “off-duty”.
The taxi companies have requested the help of MP Simon Kirby who confirmed he had written to the minister and was trying to arrange for Brighton and Hove taxi representatives can put their concerns to the transport minister directly.
Andrew Cheeseman, managing director of Brighton and Hove City Cabs, added: “It’s all to do with public safety. The safety issue is really key with this.”
He also added that Green MP Caroline Lucas had been a major help for them dealing with the issue.
Bosses at the city’s major private hire companies, including Streamline Taxis, Brighton and Hove City Cabs as well as taxi unions, hit out at the proposed amendments last week.
They say the amendments could put members of the public at risk of rogue drivers by making it harder to carry out checks and could also damage the reputation of the city’s taxi industry.
At the moment when a taxi is booked all the details are logged by the operator, including the details of the driver.
But by allowing companies to subcontract work to other areas would hamper the ability of police to track down drivers should anything happen.
Concerns were also raised that allowing non-taxi drivers to drive private hire vehicles when they are off-duty leaves passengers particularly vulnerable to anonymous drivers picking them up.
John Streeter, vice-chairman of Streamline Taxis, said: “We’ve got the highest standards in Brighton compared to anywhere else in the country, and we want to maintain that.
“It’s unsafe and it goes against customer safety.”
Mick Hildreth, secretary for GMB National Taxi section, also said they had been given days to look over the amendments before they were presented to MPs. He said: “There’s been a complete lack of consultation.”
The Government has claimed that allowing companies to subcontract work will help customers, while allowing off-duty taxis to be used as general use cars will save families money on second vehicles.
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