Those of you with gardens will remember that when the council introduced charging for green bin collections there was a great deal of anger at the level of charge being imposed. Almost all those (some 16,000 residents) with green bins paid the new £50 charge. The council had forecast that only 8,000 residents would pay up, giving an income of nearly £400k to cover the £300k cost of providing the service plus a small margin for error. Some residents prefer to use the cheaper green bags rather than bins.
The council are now proposing to raise the green in collection charge to £60 to rake in some £850k annually from next year when the cost of providing the service has barely changed, at £300k. The eagle-eyed amongst will have spotted that the council are using their residents as cash cows to make a profit of over £500k on their green bin service.
I wonder what Labour councillors would have said if they saw a private firm whack up their charges for a monopoly service and treat their customers with utter contempt. What howls of anger and indignation would have poured forth!
Unsurprisingly, when they introduced the £50 charge in 2016, the Labour councillors did not mention the making of excessive profits from green bin collections but instead talked of covering their costs. Would Labour councillors now explain to us, the residents of Reading, how they justify putting up the costs of a monopoly service that already makes a hefty profit.
Lastly, isn’t it strange how this story breaks just after the local elections and not before!
Support is growing for a legal register that ensures local authorities are in the know about drivers seeking a licence in their areas, despite previously being banned or refused a licence elsewhere.
Councils have led the way on this issue, developing a voluntary database of licence refusals and revocations, and are backing the bill’s call for this register to become mandatory.
The Local Government Association (LGA) has consistently called for a taxi licensing regime “fit for the 21st Century” and believes that this bill could be an essential first step towards updating Britain’s outdated and unfit-for-purpose licensing laws for taxis.
Local Liberal Democrat campaigner James Moore said: “Some taxi laws date back to 1847 and the era of horse-drawn hackney carriages, and the current patchwork of outdated laws leaves councils with restricted powers to enforce taxi licensing requirements in their area.”
In particular, if a driver has been banned or refused in a particular area, it is difficult for councils to be able to stop that person from gaining a licence somewhere else if the driver does not disclose their previous history. The LGA is hoping this new bill will make it easier for local authorities to share this information, building on the register that the LGA has already commissioned.
The Licensing of Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (Safeguarding and Road Safety) Bill 2017-19 is due to continue it's second reading in October, and will extend safeguarding measures to taxi drivers. The Bill will require authorities to record all refusals and revocations on a national register, as well as requiring them to cross-reference new applications against the register, to stop rogue drivers securing licences elsewhere.
Alongside safeguarding worries, the LGA has concerns that a failure to update cab legislation:
- Takes no account of the increase in app-based taxi services such as Hailo, Uber, and other companies, which has led to concern over how new models fit within the outdated framework and results in legal challenges which are costly and disruptive for councils, residents, and industry.
- Has opened the floodgates for drivers operating across licensing authority borders, with councils unable to take enforcement action against taxi drivers licensed by other local authorities, even if they are operating in their areas.
- Has undermined the level playing field between different parts of the cab industry and drivers licensed in different areas.
As a result, the LGA is throwing its support behind the bill which it says will help protect both passengers and reputable drivers.
James added: “This bill would be a positive first step towards the licensing regime for taxis that is desperately needed for the 21st Century”.
Councils do all they can to prosecute those who break the law, and several successful examples of councils doing so are below. However, the LGA is concerned that the lack of updated legislation means successful prosecutions are just the tip of an iceberg, and the below examples illustrate the seriousness of the need for more updated legislation.
Walsall Council had to take action against a man who impersonated his brother in order to obtain a taxi driver’s licence. Between 7 February and 16 March 2017, Moshin Zeb carried out over 500 pre-booked taxi journeys for profit, despite being uninsured and disqualified from driving. A member of the public tipped off the council and under questioning from local licensing officers discovered Zeb had been fraudulently using his brother’s identity. Zeb was charged, found guilty, and sentenced to 28 months for 5 counts of fraud. He was also disqualified from driving for 3 years and 6 months.
Wealden District Council brought action against a man who was operating an unlicensed taxi service that faced numerous complaints regarding a poor level of service, including many people left stranded and out of pocket from a failure to arrive to pre-booked appointments and airport runs. Despite having his taxi licence revoked and repeated council warnings, Ashley Hussey continued to drive his unlicensed taxi, and trade as “Village Cars”, with his vehicle logged in the vicinity of Gatwick Airport on more than 80 separate occasions. The Council were able to bring action against Mr Hussey, and he was disqualified from driving for 18 months and fined £4,700.
From our Tilehurst Councillor Ricky Duveen, his speech at the Reading Borough Council Planning Committee, regarding the planning application for the Zainabiya Centre in Tilehurst:
"Firstly, can I say thank you to Julie Williams, the case officer, who ploughed through the consultation responses and wrote the report.
I have met the leaders of the Zainabiya Centre several times, welcoming them to Tilehurst and thanking them for the foodbank which has been up and running for several weeks already. I hope that they can continue to expand their charitable services in the coming months and years. It is because I have been positive in welcoming them to Tilehurst that I have stood down from the Planning Committee for this item so that nobody can accuse me of bias in making a decision on the Planning Application. I have, however, used my right as Ward Councillor to have my say this evening.
It appears that as soon as word got out that a Muslim sect wanted to open a prayer hall in Tilehurst, it attracted the islamophobic rabble rousers from around the country. The distributed leaflets, anonymously, like this example around Tilehurst, creating the impression that these Muslims were going to build a huge Mosque in the middle of Tilehurst and attract thousands of worshippers to our small village. I know this because I and my colleagues have knocked on hundreds of doors around Tilehurst and spoken to residents about the so-called Mosque. We tried to reassure people that this was a myth and that Sharia Law was not coming to Tilehurst.
It turns out that the brains behind this deceit was the so-called MosqueBuster from Bristol. You can tell what he is about from the images on his website. The image of a bearded Muslim character with a hook instead of his right hand . That and the links to various far right organisations. He and his cronies have descended on Tilehurst with the intention of stirring up hatred. Not just in sending in hundreds of objections but also organising a demonstration outside the Post Office last Saturday.
This same ‘MosqueBuster’ character is apparently a Planning Lawyer but he omitted to tell his followers that Planning Applications are made on Planning grounds alone and simply saying no we don’t want it is not a planning ground for refusing permission. The issues of noise and parking can be dealt with by attaching conditions to the Planning Permission. The building itself is a small, former office block hidden behind the Post Office, almost invisible from School Road so it hardly represents a major new building in the centre of Tilehurst.
What objectors need to ask themselves, away from the theatre of meetings and demonstrations is whether they would feel the same way if someone had proposed taking over an office building for a church for a new Christian sect. Would they still raise the same objections?. We have seen a number of new churches set up in Reading over the years but none have ever produced the same level of opposition.
The report makes reference to the Equalities Act of 2010. In particular it refers to Section 149 of the Act (page 174 of the report para 6.19) which requires that decisions acknowledge the religious needs and freedoms of users of a facility. This sect of Shia Islam is welcome in Tilehurst and has already started to work in and for the people of Tilehurst. I myself, along with other councillors, have been to visit the foodbank in operation.
Saturday’s demonstration was organised from outside Tilehurst and attended by many people from far and wide. The clue was in the flyer that preceded the demo. The flyer contained the Postcode for the Post Office. Now most residents of Tilehurst know where the Post Office is in School Road, they would not need a Satnav to find it. Admittedly some were probably also from Tilehurst but we do not need these right-wing rabble rousing islamophobic extremists in our Village. They are not welcome and I trust that members of the Committee will not be swayed by this outburst of hatred in the middle of tolerant Tilehurst."