18 Oct Safety Questions as Wolverhampton Grants 383.3% More PHV Licenses
Figures from the department of transport show a huge increase in the number of registered minicab drivers in Wolverhampton, something which has been put down to the controversial transport company Uber and a change in licensing regulation.
Following the deregulation of the industry, drivers say that Wolverhampton City Council has been granting licenses to drivers who come from all over the country to exploit the easier tests.
In England outside London, the total number of driver licenses increased by only 10.7% compared to 383.3% in Wolverhampton with the total number of drivers now registered standing at 3772, according to the council’s figures.
The impact is being felt outside Wolverhampton, with council bosses in Coventry saying there has been a staggering number of Uber drivers registered with WCC operating in their area.
According to the Coventry Telegraph, a meeting has taken place between senior Coventry politicians and Wolverhampton councillors to tackle the growing problem.
The number of PHV licensed drivers increased in 119 areas which accounted for 87% of all PHV drivers.
According to a freedom of information act request, of the 6,395 drivers issued with private hire licenses, 5,319 live elsewhere.
Ebrahim Suleman from Union Cars says the huge increase is all to do with Uber being granted its operator license by the council.
He says he believes Uber took advantage of the Deregulation Act 2015 and now have drivers starting their work in Wolves but then travelling around the country using their WCC license, something they were unable to do before 2015.
“They might start in Wolverhampton, then go to Birmingham, then pick up a fare from Birmingham to Coventry and then onto London,” he said.
And he said licenses are being handed out too easily, with the practical exam and an exam testing the understanding of the local road map being dropped.
Wolverhampton charges £185 a year for a PHV license, meaning its more relaxed rules can generate income for the council. Chairman of the licensing committee Cllr Alan Bolshaw said the numbers were because they have “utilised new technology to provide an online platform enabling us to provide a much faster turnaround of license applications than many other areas.”
But Fareed Baloch, Chief Operating Officer of Zoom.Taxi said drivers were “concerned that the council was handing out badges too easily and without stringent tests which used to be a hallmark for the industry.”
“The industry has always taken passenger safety very seriously and many licensing authorities now include mandatory training on child sexual exploitation or unaccompanied packages,” he said.
“You cannot assess if someone is competent at driving or their awareness of issues like CSE and terrorism from an online form.”
Mr Suleman, who worked with the council to set up a forum, said he thought the rules needed to be harder. “When we did our tests, they were very hard,” he said. “We had a practical test, a theory test, a numeracy test and an A to Z test. Then Uber came along and things started changing.”
“Uber was granted the license and the strategy was already in place for Uber to monopolise the trade.”
In October last year the drivers held a ‘go slow’ to protest which Mr Suleman helped to organise along with Wolverhampton Private Hire Drivers Association, to protest against the changes. Their chairman Raheel Shah said many drivers were “seeing their earning potential being progressively eroded.”
The go-slow resulted in the establishment of the forum with the council.
Amrik Singh, a driver from Wolverhampton told the express and star, “There are too many drivers coming here from outside the city, it’s damaging our trade.
“But for the council it just means more money.”