Taxi/Private Hire Drivers Overcharging disabled people in Stoke

Members have complained about the behaviour of some drivers blocking disabled bays and overcharging disabled users.

Feb 17

Great news from 6th April this year it is illegal for taxi drivers to discriminate against people with disabilities.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/news/law-change-demands-equal-treatment-for-disabled-taxi-users

History

At our meeting on 8th Dec 2015 we had an update from Rachel Wallwork. The council are trying very hard to address this issue ( see an earlier email below) but they need your help in reporting instances of abuse. Please take all detail possible car reg, drivers number, date time place etc. and report it by email hcp.licensing@stoke.gov.uk or ring 01782 232774 

I am also told that private hire charges are not determined by the council. They can charge what they like as long as it is agreed before hand, but they cannot charge a disabled person more for the same journey as an able bodied person. The council cannot take action on this discrimination but they will help the individuals to take action.

Paul from PHAB FREEWHEELERS 01782 812625 has also had complaints from some of his members.

If you have any problems with this issue, please report it to email hcp.licensing@stoke.gov.uk or ring 01782 232774 

Alex Shaw has written the following guidance to help:

There are two kinds of vehicle that people call 'taxis' Hire Cars and
Hackney Carriages (which is the legal name for proper taxis) but so
far as the law is concerned they are very different.

Hire Cars have a yellow plate fitted at the rear of the vehicle which
bears a two or three digit number. They are not fitted with a meter
and can charge more or less what they want. If you are charged more
than you consider to be reasonable for travelling in one of these all
you can do is complain to the driver.

Real taxis (Hackney Carriages) have a white plate fixed at the rear
and have a TAXI sign on top and are fitted with a meter. What they can
charge you is fixed by the local authority and it is a criminal
offence if they charge you more.

You should not be charged more than the amount displayed on the meter
[plus say 50p at most but this is questionable, see item (3) below] so
if you are overcharged for a taxi journey and wish to complain you
must do the following.

(1) Make sure that the taxis meter is switched on and if not ask. Why?
(You will usually be told it is broken)

(2) Make a note of the journey start and end points.

(3) Note the time it takes to load and unload your chair (The drivers
often justify the extra charge as 'waiting time.' It is questionable
whether this is allowed but must not be more than 10p for each 40
second period)

(4) Make a note of the meter reading (If the meter is not switched on
note this also)

(5) Note the number on the white plate on the rear of the vehicle.

You must complain to the Licensing Department located in Hanley Town
Hall.

This may appear a little onerous but if you wish to succeed you will
need this information, however, in consolation, if you are overcharged
the taxi owner is legally obliged to refund your money and if they are
doing their job the council will also impose a penalty.

Alex Shaw
32 Albert St
Sandford Hill
ST3 5ED

alex.shaw@stokeontrent.plus.com

Telephone: 01782 341066

STAND has been assured that all instances of this kind of discrimination will be severely dealt with. Please let me know if you have any problems or successes after contacting Rachel as we are closely monitoring this situation.

GREAT NEWS

I had this email from Rachel this morning 25.8.15

Rachel Wallwork (Rachel.Wallwork@stoke.gov.uk)

 24/08/2015

 Dear Pam

 
Thank you for your email, Michael Clarke had also asked me to respond to you following the last STAND meeting.
 
We are aware of the concern around disabled people being charged more for a taxi / private hire journey than able-bodied people.
 
This practice is a clear breach of disability discrimination and equality legislation, but one that is unfortunately only a civil offence actionable by one of the parties to the discrimination.
 
Because the Equalities Act 2010 has not been fully commenced to allow us to take action against this practice, we are currently looking to amend our taxi and private hire policy to allow us to take enforcement action against the drivers and operators who are charging disabled people a higher fare.
 
Taxi drivers and operators already received training on this matter as part of obtaining a licence form the Council, which emphasises that discriminatory charging should not occur. From the BBC programme it was clear that the Council needs to do more to discourage it and to achieve this we are working on the following:
·        Revising the training given to new licence applicants
·        Requiring existing licence holders to attend regular refresher training
·        Introducing a licence condition adding discriminatory charging to the list of things that a licence holder must not do.
·        Introducing a licence condition clarifying that charging on the meter must not start until a passenger is seated and the vehicle is ready to move off
·        Clarifying our enforcement guidance to confirm that evidence of discriminatory charging will automatically trigger a review of the licence.
·         
These measures will require amendments to our taxi policy. Legally changes in policy have to be done following a process of consultation with members and the trade and so will take some months to introduce.
 
If you would like I can add you to our list consultees?
 
In the mean time we have written to all of our licensed private hire operators and hackney carriage (taxi)  to reinforce the training we provide and to confirm that if the Council receives a compliant from an individual suffering discrimination, we will provide assistance to them, if they wish to bring a civil case.
 
Thanks
Rachel.
 
 
Rachel Wallwork   Licensing Manager
Public Protection Division  
A member of STAND wrote this  to complain on 19.02.2016
Dear All,  Today I’ve been shopping in Tesco, Longton, Stoke on Trent.
Outside Tesco’s they operate a queueing system for Lucky Seven private hire taxis.  (Contract with Tesco, I’ve been told previously by a Lucky Seven driver on another visit to the store).  My partner pushed the shopping trolley whilst I self –propelled  myself in my Wheelchair to the taxi queue.  Initially, we were heading towards the first taxi in the queue, but the chap who was controlling/marshalling  the queue guided us to the large black cab (also Lucky Seven – badge no 220) who was in fact no.2 in the taxi queue.
 Luckily, because I have attended  (Stoke on Trent Area Network for Disabilities, STAND)  meetings at the Civic Offices in Stoke on Trent, my partner was aware of disabled people’s issues and STANDS issues regarding over-charging challenged/vunerable peoples struggles and financial problems of being over-charged by private hire cabs,  as this could contribute towards  people becoming isolated, cutting them off from society and becoming depressed. NHS and DWP expenses! My partner has also been aware of me travelling from Blurton to Stoke being charged £10, which would normally, if able bodied, would normally cost £3.50-£4.00! )  My partner asked the driver in the big cab if we would be chargedmore than the normal going rate for an abled person and he was told yes because it was a wheelchair client!  We both stated that to charge us more than the going rate would be discrimination of people with disabilities. We decided not to engage his services. I also stated I would inform the council of this experience.(Done)  We then went to the private hire car at the front of the queue(same company – Lucky Seven), loaded the wheel chair in the boot with our shopping and returned home at the going rate! (Abled body rate!)  Taxis/Hire cabs pick up drunks and drug abusers who must be more incapable than me! Maybe they do charge more for incapables, but they are also “vunerable” customers are they not?
I have since spoken to  a Tesco customer service department with reference to the above and been referred to the store managers e-mail address. (Copied in) I just wanted to highlight this issue to all good service providers (Tesco on this occasion) who are “blighted” by a poor “contracted customer service provider” Lucky Seven, in this case which could have repercussions for Tesco.  We can boycott if we wish! The taxi firm, not Tesco.  Tesco ,now informed, may wish to reconsider who they contract for add-on services.
I suggest all companies/businesses to have a “glance” at the website: STAND, (www.stand-stoke.org.uk) for a more sympathetic approach to disability and the challenges we may endure whilst visiting their sites.
Thank you for your consideration regarding this matter.
Yours sincerely.
Michelle
 March 16
Following Michelle’s complaint Lucky 7 said that there are 3 differing fees depending on the size of taxi/private hire, so there should be no extra charge if you are able to travel in an ordinary car size vehicle, but if you need a bigger vehicle eg mini bus with ramp then it will cost more.
Another interesting fact, Lucky 7 have taxis/hackney carriages and private hire vehicles. They can use taxis/hackney carriages as private hire but not the other way round.
 The Council say that ALL private hire have to be prebooked before you can travel. The taxi marshall cannot just put you in a private hire without prebooking. In Michelle’s cvase, Lucky 7 say that she travelled in a taxi not a private hire.
Confusing isn’t it?
STAND’s advice is to get a price before you travel, ask for a receipt and if you are unhappy COMPLAIN to the taxi/private hire firm in writing with a copy to Rachel.Wallwork@stoke.gov.uk at the council and a copy to STAND.

Date of Next Meeting

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 11th March at 10.00am at Stoke Town Hall. We meet at the disabled entrance in Kingsway at 9.50 am so we can be escorted to our room. The agenda can be found by clicking this link Agenda Gen 11 April 17  The meeting is open to everyone, but you need to be a member to speak in the meeting. Membership is free and a membership form can be found on our membership page.

Abuse of Blue Badge Bays on Private land

The Supermarket survey showed up a big problem that disabled people have with the abuse of blue badge bays on land not owned by the local Authority.

STAND wrote to the department for Transport. Read their reply  Blue badge parking on private land

Apparently owners of land with disabled bays marked out DO have a responsibility to ensure that they are properly used. Failure to do this could constitute discrimination and a breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Parking On Pavements

STAND invited Matthew Ellis Police and Crime Commissioner to a meeting on 10th Feb 2015 to discuss the problems cause by inconsiderate people parking on pavements putting disabled, blind people and parents with pushchairs at risk.

Stand received the following news on 9th June 2015:

Ms Bryan,

Thank you for your email to the Commissioner. The Commissioner can confirm
that since your earlier meeting, there has been an introduction of ‘Police
Advisory Notice’ booklets. These booklets have been issued to all Local
Policing Teams across Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent and are due to start
being used by local PCSO’s with effect from this week. The issuing of a
notice is subject to the following offences;

parking on a footpath;
facing the wrong way at night;
obstruction;

The Commissioner does hope that this information is of use. If I can be of
any further assistance then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind regards

Hayley Jenks
Business Support Officer

Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner
Weston Road
Stafford
ST18 0YY

Let us hope these advisory notices will make a difference

We were told by a member that the PCSOs had not been issued with these advisory notices so I emailed Matthew Ellis’s office and was assured that they had been issued with these notices so if you should spot a PCSO ignoring this problem, take his number, time, date and place and let Matthews office know. It is only with your help that anything will be done.

A Bill Asking for The Banning of Pavement Parking is to receive it’s second reading in Dec 2015.It was originally proposed by Martin Harwood but it ran out of time and did not receive a second reading. Simon Hoare MP proposed this Bill  this year simon.hoare.mp@parliament.uk 

STAND has asked all our local MPs to support this Bill. Update Dec 8th 2015 Unfortunately the Government did not support this bill and it was thrown out!!!!!

Shows how much disabled peoples’ safety means. Many thanks to our wonderful local MPs who supported this bill.

Tristram Hunt MP was the first to reply

Dear Pam,
 
Thank you for your email regarding the Pavement Parking Private Members Bill, due for its second reading in December 2015.
 
I will give this Private Members Bill serious consideration when it comes before the House of Commons and will certainly vote in favour of it should it prove to help make access to our public highways easier for disabled members of the public.
 
Best wishes,
 
Tristram
I asked Matthew Ellis’s office if these notices had been given to PCSOs as no member had seen any evidence of their use.
Dear Pam

In relation to your last email I can confirm that all LPTs have been issued
with the advisory notices as Mr Ellis confirmed at the meeting he attended
with you and I have received confirmation that all PCSOs should be using
these. In order to progress your email further what I need to know is the
name of the officer and the area in which there is still an issue, this
will then allow the Commander who has overall responsibility for this
process to go to to the Local LPT to understand why there is a gap.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Regards

Veronica Powell
Executive Assistant

Office of the Police & Crime Commissioner
Weston Road
Stafford
ST18 0YY

Tel: 01785 232385

Twitter: @StaffsPCC
OPCC Website: www.Staffordshire-pcc.gov.uk
 March 16
Barry Brocklehurst from the Council has been asked to try to help in this matter. He is trying to get the City News to publish an article about the problems that pavement parking is causing.

Stoke Theatre Access Forum

Mission Statement

Stoke Theatre Access Forum STAF has been created to work with all interested people and groups to remove barriers and impediments to individuals who wish to access the Regent Theatre.

The project co ordinator is Tim Calvert  to get involved contact Tim the Project Co-ordinator at Staf by emailing tjc21018@aol.com

Acting Chair Simon Taylor sctconsulting80@gmail.com

Anyone interested in giving their opinion on barriers to your visiting the theatre please contact one of the above as they are very interested in hearing your views.

Supermarket Awards from STAND

Lord Mayor John Beech Tracey Marsden Tracey  Marsden from ASDA accepting the awards for the most disabled friendly national and local supermarket from the lord Mayor of Stoke on Trent Jean Bowers. The Award Ceremony for the STAND awards for the most disabled friendly local and national supermarkets were both won by ASDA. ASDA at Wolstanton won the local award for the superb way the car park was managed and the help and attitude of the staff. Sainsburys in Stoke and Lidl in Longton were also mentioned by STAND  members for the managed parking and helpful staff. Our thanks to The Lord Mayor for presenting the awards and to Tracey Marsden for receiving them on behalf of ASDA. Members have voted for their preferred national and local supermarket. The results are in and were announced at the meeting on 17th June 2015. Awards were presented to ASDA supermarket company and also to the ASDA Wolstanton local supermarket. I can tell you that most disabled people prefer a supermarket that takes it’s responsibility to ensure that disabled bays are not abused, seriously. This one issue was mentioned in the vast majority of responses.  The local winner has  car parking attendants that went out of their way to ensure disabled people could find a suitable place to park even when the disabled bays were full. Store layout, with aisles wide enough s to manoeuvre a wheelchair, offers of help from supermarket staff, freezer doors that can be opened from a wheelchair, and checkouts wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs were also mentioned as important factors in which supermarkets were used and recommended by disabled people. ASDA won the awards in both categories, Sainsburys came second in the National category and Sainsburys at Stoke came third in the local category. Lidl in Longton came second in the local category STAND was asked to undertake a survey of supermarket car parks so that members know which supermarkets are taking our right to be able to access goods and services seriously. The secretary wrote to all the customer services departments of the supermarkets with stores in and around Stoke-on-Trent and their responses are posted below.  We have also polled members on their favourite disabled friendly national and local supermarket and asking for comments on good and bad service. We have had several instances of abuse reported. Some supermarket managers’ reluctance to do anything about it, is far from reassuring. In one instance the manager of one supermarket had SOLD parking spaces to people working in the area and then told these people they could use the disabled bays if the others were full!!!!! If you have come across instances of abuse or good practise please let us know. We hope to continue to name the most disabled friendly supermarkets so members know where they can expect the respect they deserve. Sainsbury Supermarket was the first to reply; If you know anything  different from what they say, let me know.

From:  Sainsbury’s Careline (customer.service@sainsburys.co.uk) You moved this message to its current location.
Sent: 26 February 2015 11

 
To:
 
Thanks for your email and further comments regarding disabled parking spaces at our stores.
 
Customer satisfaction is of paramount importance, so we understand how crucial it is that enough suitable parking spaces are made available.  To ensure all customers are able to shop with us comfortably, we have in place parking bays reserved for the disabled and for parents with children. You may be aware that whilst some of our car parks are owned by us, others are managed by external organisations.  Nevertheless, if any spaces are being misused, the driver will be issued a parking charge notice. We appreciate your feedback and I’ve passed your comments on to the relevant departments.  They’ll be able to take this on board when they next review our car parking arrangements.  We’ll continue to monitor this situation vigilantly and take into consideration all customer comments we receive about our services. We appreciate you taking the time to get in touch and look forward to seeing you in store soon. Kind regards,Isa McFadyen | Sainsbury’s Careline Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd | 33 Holborn, London | EC1N 2HT customer.service@sainsburys.co.uk | 0800 636 262 twitter.com/sainsburys | facebook.com/sainsburys

Jonathon has this less positive news for members.

Pam I work at Tesco at Trentvale and we do not not check the bays at any time.
When I have been in Burslem lately I have been seeing  taxis parking in the disable bays in Queens street and out side the New inn pub it is happening every day outside the New inn pub.
Yours john
Another instance of Tesco’s poor customer service from Janet.
Dear Pam,

Tesco at Meir Park is very bad, I have complained about it in the past only to be told that it’s just the way of the world. People often park there when they’re using the cash machine.
B&Q at Meir Park are very good and have signs displayed stating that the area is regularly
patrolled.
It’s difficult to park in a disabled bay at the Range, I don’t know if it’s because they’re so busy or if they are being abused.
Janet
I contacted Tesco and alerted them to all the negative feedback and experiences and I asked specifically what store managers guidance is when customers complain, this is the reply:
Dear Mrs Bryan
Thank you for your response.
When someone reports to us that a disabled bay is being abused our store’s will be able to do an announcement in the store asking the customer to politely move their car However we rely heavily on everyone to follow the rules.
I am afraid we cannot forcibly remove a customer from the disabled space. I understand this may not be what you want to hear and I completely sympathize with customers who cannot use the disabled spaces as my mother is has a broken back and is wheelchair bound and it frustrates her too.
Thanks again for contacting us and if there is anything else I can do for you, please reply to this email. Alternatively, you could call us on 0800 505555/0330 123 4055, where my colleagues will also be more than happy to assist.
Kind regards
Andrew Carr
Tesco Customer Service

Tesco Logo Asda have people patrolling the car parks, they give warning and fine abusers. Several notices in front of the bays tell people what will happen if they abuse the spaces. The car park attendants at Wolstanton  Asda were praised for their fair but firm approach and their ability to direct disabled people to other suitable parking spaces if the disabled spaces were full. Several members have recommended this supermarket for the quality of the people patrolling the car parks ensuring that disabled people can park and access the store. One member commented on the offers of help from staff when she visits this store in her wheelchair. Another commented about being able to get small quantities as he lives alone and cannot use large packs of food. Lidl have a Parking firm to patrol their car parks and they warn people and fine abusers. I have personal experience of the customer care at Longton when the car broke down on their car park. A member of staff rang the RAC for us and even came out to see if we wanted a cup of tea while we were waiting. Real customer service. Read Lidl’s great response by clicking on this link. Lidl Please let me know about your favourite supermarket and why. Your votes will be counted at the end of April.  So far Asda is coming out as favourite, with Sainsbury’s a close second. Lidl Longton has been commended as giving great service and considerate help along with Asda  at Wolstanton.  By far the worst performer is Tesco. Every complaint we have had has been about Tesco’s poor service in stopping the abuse of its’ blue bays and the attitude of store managers when disabled people complain. There is also a problem with disabled members using the car parks at Festival Park. One member said that builders vans blocked all disabled bays when he visited B&Q in the early morning. When I rang the manager the explanation was that the company that owned the Festival Park had discontinued employing “security” staff and as the stores only rented the building, they did not have any control over the parking spaces!!!!!! I must say that the manager of B&Q was very helpful and was as concerned as we are about this abuse. Promises of speaking to the offending drivers were given. Let me know if this has any effect. I contacted our MPs about this matter as I am still getting reports of abuse of blue badge bays on the Festival Park. Tristram Hunt MP has written to the site owner and asked for a response about what they are doing to ensure that the bays are not abused and what their policy is on this matter. He is also looking at the possibility of getting the law strengthened to ensure compliance. ie policing of the bays. I have also contacted the planning dept (via Lez) to ask if compliance can be made a condition of planning permission.

Council proposed to charge blue badge holders to use surface car parks, but not for now!!!!

A fantastic result folks!!!! Our new Council has decided NOT to charge disabled people to park on surface car parks. Many thanks to everyone who signed the petition and supported us in this endeavour.

The petition got enough votes for STAND to address a full Council Meeting on this issue. We can only hope that they reconsider. We have had an assurance that STAND will be consulted before these proposals are implemented.

 

The Council are trying to raise £30 000 per year by charging disabled people to park. Members of STAND are very concerned about this proposal. Please sign our e petition here  Epetition  The petition went live on Friday 13th March and by Saturday night we had 120 signatures. Please ask everyone you know to sign this petition. We want to ask the council to think again.

April 15th and we now have 260 signatures asking the council to think again and 10 against. Please ask everyone you know to sign the petition as we would like the Council to know the strength of feeling about this issue.

We do not believe that they will raise that amount of money because disabled people will either park on yellow lines or go elsewhere. Few will pay to park so the council will not raise the money, in fact it will cost them as they will have to pay to make the car parks disabled friendly. All the parking meters will have to be accessible and many will have to be re sited. The pay and display method of parking will have to be changed to one that does not force disabled people to walk further than they are able. The no win no fee lawyers are available to take on disability discrimination cases free of charge, so unless all of this work is done prior to charging some one could bring a legal challenge, which again would cost the Council to defend and even more should they lose. Members also believe that the council  would  be discriminating against disabled people because abled bodied pensioners have their travel cost subsided whereas many disabled people cannot use the buses and so cannot benefit from this subsidy. Disabled people pay their poll tax but cannot access many of the council run services.

Please let us know what you think.

It is apparent from emails received that people with disabilities who work in town centres are going to be severely affected by the Council’s decision. The vast majority of car parks within travelling distance for a blue badge holder are short term, which means that disabled people who can park there now will be prevented from doing so when this measure comes into operation. DISABLED PEOPLE FORCED OUT OF THEIR JOBS or they can put themselves in great pain and distress by attempting to walk further than they can manage. This from a Council that it’s citizens told them to protect vulnerable people.

http://webapps.stoke.gov.uk/uploadedfiles/Budget-proposals_Final-2014-V5.0-compressed-secured.pdf  page 12.

http://webapps.stoke.gov.uk/uploadedfiles/Budget-final-proposal-presentation-4-Feb.pdf

STAND have received no reply from their request for a costing on how much it will COST  council to make the car parks and method of payment disabled friendly.

Many thanks to the people who filled in the Councils’ consultation forms. These will form the basis of serious discussions about how the issues raise can be resolved.