Edinburgh council chiefs consider capping private hire vehicles amid fears over public safety, illegal pick-ups and the environment

Council chiefs will investigate whether to cap the number of private hire vehicles operating in the city after the taxi trade raised fears over public safety, illegal pick-ups and the environment.

Thursday, 24th October 2019, 5:10 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th October 2019, 6:10 pm

Edinburgh City Council unanimously backed a motion by Green Cllr Susan Rae, calling for officials to draw up a document on capping private hire licences in Edinburgh.

The move comes after union bosses, representing the black cab trade in Edinburgh, spoke out about fears for the future of their industry, as well as the welfare of passengers and air pollution.

Figures released by the council last month found that between April 2018 and August 2019, there were 157 complaints of illegal pick-ups, known as ‘seagulling’, against private hire drivers.

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Council chiefs will investigate whether to cap the number of private hire vehicles operating in the city after the taxi trade raised fears over public safety, illegal pick-ups and the environment.

In the same period, there were 139 complaints of aggressive behaviour against private hire drivers and 150 against taxi drivers. Six sexual related complaints were received against private hire drivers and eight against taxi drivers.

The council said: “The increase in complaints against PHC can be directly attributed to complaints made from the taxi trade. The increase in complaints against the taxi trade can be attributed to those received from members of the public.”

'We would like more enforcement'

Scott Blair from Unite the Union spoke out about the pressure an increase in private hire licences has put on the taxi trade in Edinburgh.

He said: “We are concerned that there’s not enough work in Edinburgh for the private hire vehicles. Through desperation, they are having to pick up from the streets illegally.

“We would like more enforcement on the streets of Edinburgh. By having a dedicated enforcement team, we are looking at the while trade to be looked at. It makes us look better and it makes us provide our service even higher.

“We do think there’s an issue in Edinburgh and we want this cleared up.”

Mr Blair added that it’s “hugely frustrating” that no action has been taken to cap the number of private hire licences issued. In April, Glasgow City Council become the first local authority in Scotland to officially gap the number of private hire licences.

He added: “It’s been four years now that we have waited.”

Cllr Rae, in tabling her motion, praised taxi drivers as being “ambassadors for the city” along with their duties as drivers and said the growth of private hire vehicles is having a “detrimental impact on the livelihoods of black cab drivers”.

She added: “The evidence from Unite’s Edinburgh cab section made a powerful case for the traditional black taxi service, with well-trained drivers and high-quality, accessible vehicles. Their numbers are capped and regulated closely by the council.

“For private hire cars, the numbers are not capped, so, as they have risen dramatically, the competition between hire cars gets worse and that can have an impact on standards. Most responsible private hire car drivers also recognise that this race to the bottom tarnishes them all and so they support greater regulation.

“That’s why I am delighted that the council agreed to my request to investigate capping private hire car numbers.”

The Labour-SNP coalition’s amendment to the motion was brought forward by former vice convener of finance and resources, Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron, who resigned from the role over a taxi expenses scandal.

She said: “If other cities in this country are taking steps then Edinburgh as a capital should be doing likewise.”

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