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UPHD seeks intervention in LPHCA v TfL High Court licence fee battle

The Independent Workers' Union of Great Britain (IWGB) will today apply to intervene in Licensed Private Hire Car Association's (LPHCA) judicial review of Transport for London's (TFL) changes to the licensing regime, arguing that the regulator's changes are irrational and discriminate against the mainly BAME private hire driver workforce. The IWGB's intervention will also question the rationality of some of LPHCA's legal arguments. Private hire operator lobby LPHCA was granted permission for a judicial review before the High Court on 7 February. Its judicial review challenges the increases in license fees for private hire operators by TFL and the use of this money to fund enforcement efforts on private hire drivers and black cabs, rather than using it strictly on the regulation of private hire operators. In its intervention the IWGB will argue that: 

TFL's licensing regime is irrational because it places a disproportionate financial burden on individual drivers for the licensed private hire industry. The Uber employment status tribunal and the Addison Lee employment status tribunal concluded that drivers work under the control of licensed operators who take the lion’s share of profits while drivers typically earn below the minimum wage. Private hire drivers contribute £18.5m per annum in vehicle and driver licensing, while operators only pay £2.4m. Under the new scheme proposed by TFL the annual cost for operators would go up only to £9.2m.

  • TFL is in breach of the equality act due to its failure to properly consult with private hire drivers before changing the license fee regime or indeed, at any time. 80% of London's 117,000 private hire drivers that self report identify themselves as BAME, yet TFL consistently denies private hire drivers a voice by not recognising any organisation that exclusively represents their interests in its stakeholder process. Meanwhile, 24,000 black cab drivers, of which the 80% that self report are White British, enjoy representation in the TFL stakeholder process through official recognition of five separate bodies. In addition, TFL places a lower license cost burden on black cab drivers.

LPHCA's challenge is also irrational as it is seeking to delink the compliance regime for operators and that for its drivers and vehicles which are directly under operator control. This is not only nonsensical, but such an approach could undermine an integrated approach to safety and compliance and would run counter to the public interest.

IWGB United Private Hire Drivers branch chair James Farrar said: “If TfL is successful in overcoming this judicial review we are left with a license system that remains wholly unfair to drivers. If LPHCA is successful in arguing that operating license fees should not go towards funding compliance and enforcement of the cars and drivers employed in their operation, then drivers will be vulnerable to TfL coming after them to plug the budget shortfall. It’s time for both parties to put the greater public interest first and consider fairness to drivers as they look to settle their differences in the High Court.” 

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