Following a protracted period of unrest in the district, many trade protests, broken promises and much debate, Brighton and Hove City Council (BHCC) has refused to renew Uber Britannia Ltd’s (UBL) private hire operator licence.
Uber’s original licence was granted solely on the basis that they made a commitment – made verbally, not as a condition of licence - only to use drivers and vehicles that were licensed by BHCC. Despite the licence having been renewed twice over short probationary periods, Uber in Brighton did not honour that commitment and were using TfL licensed Uber drivers, as well as drivers from Wolverhampton, Sefton, Portsmouth, Chichester, New Forest and many other outlying districts.
Having come to the decision unanimously, on 29 April a licensing panel announced that Uber was not a fit and proper company to continue operating in Brighton. The panel cited concerns over a data breach in which Uber customers’ personal details were leaked, and the number of Uber drivers working in Brighton but licensed in other districts.
Chair of Brighton and Hove’s licensing pan-el, Jackie O’Quinn, said: “Our priority is the safety of residents and visitors and, due to the data breach and the lack of commitment to using drivers licensed here, we were not satisfied that UBL is a fit and proper person to hold an operator’s licence in the city.”
Uber has appealed the decision to the Magistrates’ Court; therefore – as in London – the company can continue to operate in Brighton until such time as the appeal procedure is concluded.
Brighton and Hove is the third licensing authority to refuse to renew Uber’s operator licence; the appeal by Uber London Ltd against Transport for London’s refusal is due to be heard this month, while York refused to renew UBL’s operator licence last December.
NPHTA member and Vice Chairman of Brighton and Hove Streamline, John Streeter, gave much insight into the background leading up to Uber’s refusal: the trade in Brighton started alerting the council over two years ago as to the number of out-of-area Uber drivers working in the district. They submitted videos and still photos; they staged protests; they held radio and TV interviews; they contacted TfL about the increasing volume of Uber drivers working in Brighton, initially to no avail.
“…When we started producing evidence to TfL of blatant abuse of TfL licensed private hires working in Brighton – even occasionally picking up off our ranks and not having their [licence] roundel on display anywhere in the vehicle – it soon became evident that TfL did not want to know.”
In 2017 the Brighton trade upped their campaign in challenging licensing authorities in other parts of the country to investigate why PH drivers and vehicles were working in Brighton. Following this intensive campaign BHCC eventually conceded and a public hearing was held on 23 April 2018, at which a very strong legal team represented the main Brighton companies and presented a solid argument; it took BHCC eight days to announce their decision.