Portsmouth taxis: 'Terrible' plan to make drivers have permanent city council badge on their cars is thrown out

COUNCILLORS have rejected ‘terrible’ proposals requiring taxi drivers in Portsmouth to have permanent city council livery on their vehicles following widespread opposition from the industry.

By Josh Wright
Saturday, 18th December 2021, 11:41 am

Members of the council's licensing committee unanimously agreed on Thursday not to push on with a planned consultation on changes to its policy due to concern not all options had been fully considered.

A report said the 2019 relaxation of rules allowing taxi and private hire vehicles to use magnetic livery was being ‘repeatedly misused’ and not correctly displayed, forcing the council to ‘divert resources’ from more important issues.

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Aqua Cars boss Bruce Hall supported the plan to make the signs permanent, and not magnetic Picture: Sam Stephenson

The change had been made to allow drivers to remove the signs when working for different companies but more than three per cent of drivers have since been recorded without correct displays, the report said.

It said: ‘The use of an approved vehicle livery to promote and to identify a locally-licensed vehicle goes to the heart of promoting public safety and reassurance, particularly to those vulnerable passengers awaiting a pick-up at night.’

But the proposal drew significant opposition from the taxi trade for what they said was ‘a blatant restraint of trade’ amounting to a ‘cartel practice’.

Uber representative Peter Sutherland said the data provided to councillors was ‘limited, and selective at best’.

He said: ‘Yes, there have been offenders. Yes, some of these offenders are repeat offenders, of that there is no question - but there are over 1,000 licensed vehicles in Portsmouth.

‘I have suggested to enforcement officers on more than one occasion that there are different punishments that can be given to offenders, especially repeat offenders, to eradicate the problems swiftly and cover all the concerns.

‘The trade wants to see warnings or short-term suspensions, up to perhaps a longer term suspension or cancellation of a licence and the vehicle licence if the driver is a repeat offender.

‘Punish the offenders and not law-abiding drivers.’

His comments were echoed by five other taxi drivers at Thursday's meeting.

Support within the industry was not unanimous. Aqua Cars general manager Bruce Hall supported the proposal which he said would provide clearer information to the public about the taxi they were using.

He said standards within the industry were ‘slowly eroding’ and that the reintroduction of permanent livery would make it safer.

However, councillors were unanimously opposed to putting the proposal out for consultation with councillor George Madgwick saying it would have a ‘terrible’ effect.

‘I think it’s really unfair that we’re penalising self-employed drivers because we as a council can't afford to hire more people to enforce this,' he said. 'That's something we have got to sort out internally.

‘The three per cent of drivers who break the rules are going to break the rules even if we make livery permanent.

'We'll lose drivers to another area where they don't impose these rules which completely counteracts the point about having taxis available for people.’

Councillor Charlotte Gerada said the council should consider introducing ‘stronger penalties’ before changing its policy. Her view was backed by councillors Rob New and Daniel Wemyss.

The committee agreed unanimously to ‘reject’ the proposal and requested more evidence and alternative options be brought for consideration when it meets in March.