On the back of Uber's exclusion from York, TaxiPoint was fortunate enough to be granted an interview with Mike Palmer, Secretary of York Private Hire Association and a Member of York Hackney Carriage Association. Here he gives his reaction to York City Council's decision not to issue Uber with a licence.
So, Mike, how do you feel about York City Council's refusal to issue Uber with a licence to operate?
Hi Steve, absolutely over the moon, as you can imagine! There were a few shandys at the Indian round the corner from the meeting afterwards!
How did you galvanise the support of your colleagues to help achieve this result?
This question is one that really matters after many years of the Private Hire and Hackney trade being at odds over customers being "Hackneyed" at prebooked pickups, and the occasional PH picking up a stray fare.
Personally, I have nearly 20 years in the trade and it is split equally between the two sides. I also work for Station Taxis, a group of HC who work out of York station and accept phone bookings. We are all in the business of moving passengers safely no matter where or how the job comes to us.
As Secretary of the York Private Hire Association, and a member of the York Hackney Carriage Association, a member of the Station Taxis Association, I feel that bringing all York drivers together is something that I'm well placed to do. As part of the whole, both the YPHA and the YHCA have worked closely together to fight this external threat. Until recently York hasn't needed council enforcement of the trade, we're such a small city, less than a thousand licenced drivers in total! that we really do all know each other and our cars by sight. Nearly every driver in York is part of an Association and as such they talk amongst themselves and bring ideas to both tables, often. To not work tegether is shortsighted. To expect the differences to disappear overnight is naive, by the same token. There will always be two trades working as one, there will be a few people who can never forgive and forget, but for the most part we all want the same thing. To level the playing field, to move people safely, to do what is best for York even though some of the population don't realise what could happen when a SatNav Jockey from Leeds hits a tree and finds out his insurance doesn't cover his passengers.
Do you feel that the council made a fair decision?
The council was asked a faulty question. They were there to decide if an empty office at Clifton Moor was a Fit and Proper person to hold a licence. The empty office represents a company, but they were told to disregard the greater company and concentrate on York. Which is it? UBER as a company are toxic. There are so many articles from around the world about their deception, manipulation, negligence, arrogance, and lies that they won't be a problem for long. York's handful of drivers work for a faceless entity called "UBER Britannia" who couldn't even field the person who applied in name, Fred Jones, at the meeting. Neil McGonigle isn't anything to do with the cab trade, he's a slippery character sent to flannel uninformed councillors in places where he can.
UBER's complete and abysmal failure to report their hack as they were required to do under ICO rules was enough reason to refuse, the councillors had been advised not to take into account so much important information about the company because it didn't apply to the empty office, just the logo on the door, that they had a hard time making the decision they knew was the one required for the safety of York citizens.
Should Uber be allowed back into York if they endeavour to comply with current legislation?
No. The company should be banned from the UK as a toxic, tax dodging, rule breaking, multi-nationally despised and systemically negligent corporation which destroys our trade wherever it opens a company. They are locusts who are hastening the race to the bottom that is taking over, then becoming a monopoly. The irony is that a lot of people feel that the traditional cab drivers are afraid of competition and choice. If UBER become the only game in town they will only have one choice, won't they?
Will York's decision be negated by the lack of legislation surrounding cross-border hiring?
Not at all. York's empty office will be up for lease soon, UBER have been called on their behaviour.
Their locusts can still pick York's economy clean to the tune of £10,000,000 a year, but we are working on several angles to curtail that behaviour too.
Do you believe that other cities will now be brave and follow York's stance?
I do. York is the first council to refuse to renew a licence renewal, but the grounds for it remain unchallenged. If other councils consider them to be no longer Fit and Proper there are grounds for suspending and ending a licence based on their wilful negligence in reporting the loss of customer data as required by the ICO.
Did the local PHV firms endorse and support your campaign?
Of course! Jim Love, a speaker at the meeting is the boss of one of the PH companies in the city. We've had petitions out for a while in cabs, collecting signatures from customers. Drivers from PH and HC were outside the meeting showing support, community spirit, and solidarity with each other, and the councillors for the hard decision they had to make.
How many taxis are there in York?
There are 183 Hackney Carriages. That number includes wheelchair accessible vehicles as required by legislation. The number of Private Hire vehicles changes all the time.
Suffice to say that there are as of Tuesday, 890 or so drivers in total in York. None of the York UBER, nor out of town UBER vehicles are wheelchair accessible. Several of our Private Hire companies have made a point of assuring the public that if a WA vehicle is requested, one can be provided.
Did you have the general public's support over this decision?
The public have for the main part understood the issues and seen that we care about safety. There are people in York who believe that we are just bitter about losing money. I haven't lost any money. I have worked as hard as anyone to fight this company because I have personally been picked up illegally three times by UBER drivers and have had one of them prosecuted for it. The story was in the York Press.
It seems that sometimes people believe what they want in the face of evidence they refuse to accept.
Do you think that Uber will appeal?
Can they undo their willful and negligent attitude towards the law set down that requires them to disclose a "notifiable breach" within 72 hours?
If they can spin that into "we wanted to but wah wah wah" and get someone to believe it, they can appeal. Good luck. They will need a much better man than the one they sent to York to make people fall for that story.
Do you think that TfL's stance influenced York City Council's decisions?
As Brighton sat on the fence we were expecting a Swansea style result. Conditions applied to the licence which may make UBER walk away. We were in no way prepared to see York take the lead in the country, to stand out as a beacon [sic Beacon is a charged word, York is a Beacon council] for other councils to follow with this. London can follow York!
Do you feel that the whole of the taxi industry should be galvanised, with all the UK's major taxi representatives forming one UK wide body?
If someone says "Let's go for a curry in Birmingham, send representatives from all over the UK," I'm pushing to be York's rep. I love curry and I feel that we can all benefit from working together.
York has set the tone, you can tell your LA that UBER are no longer Fit and Proper. Let us tell you what we know, although the information is out there!
Do you feel that regulators should be able to place a cap on PHV numbers?
Rather than cap the numbers, put the intended use clause into the licence. If you can't make a living in your LA don't come to mine and become part of the same problem here. Either up your game so more people want to use cabs, or keep the numbers at a level where service meets demand. Lowering prices is a race to the bottom, don't become so cheap that you can't provide nice cars with polite drivers.
Thank you for your time Mike, and congratulations on what is a significant victory.