Upset as Uber's licence extended in Brighton and Hove

GMB taxi drivers protest outside the Labour Conference in Brighton (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)
GMB taxi drivers protest outside the Labour Conference in Brighton (Photograph: Eddie Mitchell)

App-based taxi service Uber had its licence to operate in Brighton and Hove extended by six months in a behind-closed-doors meeting on Tuesday (October 31).

Brighton and Hove City Council announced the news today (November 2), and the move left taxi drivers' union the GMB 'deeply disappointed'.

This comes after Transport for London refused to renew Uber's licence in September.

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: "The decision on the length of the extension was taken to allow the council to monitor the outcome of the Transport for London Uber decision, and consider whether any of the information arising from the case had direct implications for the operation in the city. It also allows the council more time to negotiate with Uber about a number of proposed conditions for operating in the city.

"In making the decision, officers studied reports and written submissions from interested parties. While there was no evidence to suggest that public safety had been compromised, there are a number of concerns, and Uber are working with the council to address these and reassure residents and visitors about their safety."

The GMB union has held a series of demonstrations in Brighton over recent months calling for an end to the ‘Wild West’ situation which it says has been brought about by deregulation of the taxi and private hire industry, and had called for the licensing meeting to be held in public..

It also won an employment tribunal in October 2016, which said that Uber drivers are workers entitled to basic workers’ rights and that the company are wrong to label them as self- employed.

Justin Bowden, GMB National Secretary, said: “GMB is deeply disappointed by Brighton and Hove City Council’s absurd decision today to give Uber a blank cheque to continue operating in the city.

“If Brighton and Hove had no concerns, they would have extended the licence for the full five year term.

“The fact they have limited renewal to six months suggests that there are concerns that they are failing to fully disclose to the public.

“On the back of our landmark employment tribunal victory, we brought drivers and the public together calling on Uber to start acting within the law or get out of Brighton.

“The council has failed to act within their regulatory responsibilities and we will be taking legal action in respect of this decision.

“GMB will never shy away from tackling exploitation on behalf of our members."

Confronting concerns about drivers licensed in other areas operating in the city, Brighton and Hove City Council said: "Under national law, licensed drivers can operate anywhere in the country, so drivers licensed elsewhere are allowed to operate in the city. Many authorities have fewer conditions attached to their licensing than is the case here.

"When licensing operators, Brighton and Hove City Council work with them to maintain and enhance standards of safety, which includes trying to ensure that drivers not licenced locally can be as accountable as possible. We’re working with Uber to ensure safety standards are maintained and address the challenges brought about by technological changes.

"All Brighton and Hove private hire and Hackney Carriage drivers in the city operate under the same licences and the same guidelines contained in the Blue Book, whichever company they drive for. Likewise, all drivers undergo the same background checks.

"Following the council’s standard procedure for renewing taxi operators’ license renewals, the decision was taken by officers under delegated authority. A decision on the process to look at the license at the end of this six month period will be taken in the new year."