The Public Affairs Awards 2017
Consultancy Campaign of the Year
The 2017 Public Affairs Awards are dedicated to celebrating the best work that the Public Affairs industry has to show. As Media Partner, PubAffairs is contributing to reward excellence by showcasing winning entries in a number of categories.
Campaign: Licensed Taxi Drivers Association: Hailing a new era for the taxi industry
Newington started working for The Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) in 2015 when the industry faced serious competition from private hire vehicle (PHV) operators, who deliberately circumvent regulation and exploit loopholes in national legislation to keep fares low. This jeopardised passenger and public safety while undercutting their fares forcing taxi drivers out of business.
The LTDA was struggling to raise political awareness of these issues due to negative perceptions of the industry – which is often represented as against innovation, change and a competition.
Newington’s campaign focused on changing perceptions, building constructive relationships with varied stakeholders and securing a favourable regulatory environment for taxis – with the aim of securing the safety of passengers, drivers and the general public by campaigning for PHV and taxi licensing regulations to be updated, to prevent cross-border hiring.
Over the past two years unscrupulous PHV operators and drivers have exploited the sub-contracting clause in the Deregulation Act 2015 which effectively allows them to be licensed by one local authority and operate in another – known as cross border hiring. This problem is compounded by the variation in licensing standards across the country, meaning that some drivers can circumvent local licensing regulations they deem too burdensome. Consequently, local licensing authorities are left with no control over which drivers operate in their area, leaving them unable to protect passengers and the public.
Newington identified parts of the country affected by cross-border hiring issues, examined local licensing requirements across the UK and, through consultation with disability groups, passenger safety groups and drivers, and drafted a list of proposed national minimum licensing standards. We contacted MPs with affected constituencies and called for a statutory definition of cross-border hiring and the introduction of national minimum licensing standards.
Newington also organised meetings between Steve McNamara, General Secretary of the LTDA, the then Minister for London, Lord Ahmad; Secretary of State for Transport, Chris Grayling MP; and Minister with responsibility for taxis, John Hayes MP. To ensure air time for taxi issues within Parliament, Newington worked with Labour MP, Wes Streeting, to help set up the All Party Parliamentary Group on Taxis (administered by Newington and sponsored by LTDA, GETT and mytaxi).
On behalf of the APPG Newington facilitated an inquiry into the taxi and PHV trade in London and nationally. This identified opportunities and challenges facing the trade, and Newington drafted a report Lessons from London, summarising the inquiry’s evidence and calling on the Government, and relevant licensing authorities, to implement policy solutions.
This influential report received widespread media coverage in national and regional outlets, including BBC News, the Evening Standard, ITV News, Ilford Recorder and Liverpool Echo. Newington also organised a highly successful report launch event, which was attended by around 20 MPs, from across the political spectrum, representatives from the trade, licensing authorities, taxi apps and disability groups.
Transport for London (TfL) and City Hall engagement
Newington’s campaign engaged with Transport for London and City Hall to raise awareness of these serious threats to passenger safety and ask for their support in pressurising Government. Steve McNamara met with London Assembly members from across the political spectrum and Mayoral representatives, to discuss how some PHV operators, such as Uber, were cross-border hiring and how this posed risks to passenger safety.
The LTDA’s parliamentary campaign resulted in the Government recognising the issues with current taxi and PHV licensing introducing a clause into the Policing and Crime Act 2017: “the Secretary of State may issue guidance to public authorities as to how their licensing functions under taxi and private hire vehicle legislation may be exercised”. The then Transport Minister, Andrew Jones MP, committed to consulting on this guidance as soon as the Policing and Crime Bill has reached Royal Assent.
Chair of the APPG on Taxis, Wes Streeting MP, secured a Westminster Hall debate on the “Future of the Taxi Trade”, following the Lessons from London report.
He asked Government to introduce a Taxi and Private Hire Vehicle Licensing Reform Bill and pushed the Government to introduce national minimum licensing standards for all taxis and PHVs across the country. Minister for Taxis, John Hayes MP, promised to write to all licensing authorities about “inconsistencies across licensing authorities” and meet with the Mayor to explore the regulatory changes that could be made in London.
The Department for Transport has set up a Task and Finish Group on Taxi and PHV licensing, to investigate current licensing issues and advise Government on changes to the national licensing framework. As a result of Newington’s campaign, Steve McNamara was asked to represent the industry by sitting on this working group.
Transport for London (TfL) and City Hall engagement
Newington’s work with the LTDA successfully highlighted the safety implications surrounding Uber’s operation in London, as at the end of September TfL refused to give Uber an operator’s licence, citing concerns about passenger safety.
The decision has publicly demonstrated that TfL, and the Mayor, will not allow transport operators to deliberately try to avoid licensing and regulatory requirements in order to drive down prices. This will set a precedent for any PHV operators following in Uber’s place, and has secured a more favourable environment for London’s taxi drivers.
These developments represent a sea change in the Government’s attitude toward taxi and PHV licensing, brought about by Newington’s campaigning for the LTDA.
“Newington’s fantastic campaign has delivered real changes that will help secure the future of my members and protect the safety of passengers. The consultants’ commitment to the campaign, understanding of the taxi industry and in-depth political knowledge ensured that this campaign was successful.”