The council’s licensing committee met last night (Tuesday, November 13) to discuss what action could be taken to limit the impact of Uber on private hire vehicles in the borough.
This comes after many Wokingham taxi drivers had voiced their concerns to the council that not enough was being done to halt Uber, and the committee agreed that stronger action was needed from the government.
Councillor Rachel Burgess told the News: “I was pleased the Licensing Committee pushed for stronger recommendations regarding the operation of Uber in Wokingham borough.
“It is clear that there is not a level playing field in Wokingham, as well as a potential public safety issue, as the local authority has no powers to carry out enforcement checks on Uber drivers or their vehicles who are licensed outside the borough.
“This is a classic case of legislation not keeping up with new technology. Legislation should be brought forward to allow Wokingham and other licensing authorities to carry out compliance checks for any taxi or private hire vehicle within their area. The Licensing Committee should also call on TfL to make it a condition of licensing that drivers cooperate with requests from compliance officers in areas such as Wokingham.
“We have an increasing number of drivers operating almost entirely at a significant distance from where they are licensed, making it impossible for licensing authorities to effectively monitor their activities. It is clear to me that all taxi journeys should start or end within the area in which the driver is licensed.
“We need the government to bring forward these legislative changes to protect public safety and to ensure fairness for all drivers in Wokingham borough.”
Councillor Chris Bowring told the committee that “drivers in the borough (were) being discriminated against by Uber”.
National rules mean Uber drivers can be licensed by Transport for London but can live in and operate in Wokingham without needing to be checked out by Wokingham Borough Council (WBC).
Councillor Rachelle Shepherd-DuBey said: “We should be asking the government to set up national standards so we have different areas able to deal with it.
“We want a national system so we can check everybody.”
Two taxi drivers submitted their concerns to the council before the meeting, with one writing: “It is felt by the Hackney Carriage and Private Hire trades that Wokingham Borough Council are not at all supportive of any valid concerns presented to them.”
Another wrote: “We drivers are upset about UBER drivers working in Wokingham. This is unfair when the Council is forcing us to buy wheelchair accessible vehicles but don’t care how we can afford these types of vehicles. The least the Council can do is help us to stop UBER drivers in Wokingham.
“This has had an effect on our earnings and we, the licensed drivers, find this unfair and undermining.
“This is affecting our living. We drivers believe the Council will take our concern seriously and take action.”
The council is set to write to the four MPs with constituencies in the borough, as well as the relevant minister for state, Transport for London and the Local Government Association voicing their concerns about Uber.
Bracknell Forest Council’s licensing committee met last month to discuss the threat of Uber in Bracknell, with one councillor describing the issue as “torturous” for taxi drivers.
Later in the meeting councillors agreed to change their licensing policy for private hire drivers.
A removal of a clause means drivers licensed with other authorities will not be able to apply for licenses in Wokingham.
It was also agreed to reject the creation of a new licence that would have been necessary as a result of agreeing to an operator’s request to exempt chauffeurs from the mandatory geographical knowledge test when applying for a licence.