Members of Basildon Council have requested an update in relation to the issue of "out of area" private hire vehicles working within the Borough, specifically highlighting those working under the Uber banner.
Among a raft of recommendations, the council are proposing that a letter be sent to the relevant Minister of State to express concern regarding the current licensing legislative framework and the need for the urgent implementation of the legislation review.
Also within the recommendations is that a letter be sent to Uber asking them to withdraw from Basildon or apply for an Operator’s Licence within the borough, and seeking clarification of the reasons for their failure to apply for a licence from Basildon Borough Council.
Transport for London doesn’t escape Basildon Council's ire either, with a recommendation that a letter be sent on behalf of the Chair of Licensing Committee to TfL setting out the concerns of Basildon Council with the current licensing arrangements. In particular, highlighting disparities in the standards applied across the authorities, the impact that their licensing approach is having on the Basildon licensing function, and to request the urgent review of their licence conditions to bring them closer into line with those adopted by Basildon Council.
In February 2018, Uber divided the country into 9 regions which constrained the working area of its drivers in relation to the locality of the authority which issued its operator’s licence.
The London region identified by Uber incorporates Basildon, Brentwood, Thurrock, Harlow and Epping. This boundary, termed “Geofencing”, has been created by Uber.
The region is far ranging and stretches out as far as Luton as an example. Uber withdrew from the Southend and Chelmsford Borough Council areas at that time. According to Basildon Borough Council, this was a business decision taken by Uber and was not in response to any specific instigation of those authorities.
Under current legislation, Basildon Council has no powers to undertake vehicle or driver checks in relation to private hire drivers who are licensed outside of the Borough.
This has raised concerns from those who are licensed to operate from within the Borough, as well as councillors themselves, as to whether the same level of safety checks are being applied by other licensing authorities.
Other concerns which have been raised include the financial impact cross-border hiring is having on taxi and private hire drivers who are licensed in the Borough, with many concerned that there isn't a level playing field.
The Licencing Committee will meet in public at the Bas Centre on 18 September, at 7pm.
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