Uber loses York taxi licence on grounds of 'public safety and security'

Council's decision greeted by applause and cries of 'thank you' from the public gallery

Alexander Britton
Wednesday 13 December 2017 10:24 GMT
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Council cited the number of complaints it had received about the service and a recent well-publicised data protection breach as reasons for the decision
Council cited the number of complaints it had received about the service and a recent well-publicised data protection breach as reasons for the decision (AFP/Getty)

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York has followed London by refusing to grant ride-hailing app Uber a licence to operate in the city.

Transport for London (TfL) refused to renew Uber's licence on the grounds of “public safety and security implications” in September.

A committee at the City of York Council cited the number of complaints it had received about the service and a recent well-publicised data protection breach as reasons for the decision.

The 7-3 vote of the Gambling, Licensing and Regulatory Committee was greeted by applause and cries of “thank you” from the public gallery on Tuesday night.

Saf Din, chairman of the York Hackney Carriage Drivers Association, told the meeting Uber was “systematically abusing” the local laws and “looking for loopholes” by using out-of-town vehicles.

He said: “The trade does not object to fair competition, but Uber are not a fair player in the public transport world in the UK.”

Uber's licence was due to expire in York on Christmas Eve this year, having twice previously been granted clearance to operate - most recently on 21 December 2016.

The company also received some good news on Wednesday as Sheffield lifted its own suspension on Uber's operating licence after it provided satisfactory answers to questions about the taxi app's management.

Earlier this month, local officials in Sheffield said Uber's licence had been suspended after it failed to respond to queries. Uber said it had not received the correspondence the council referred to as it had been sent to the wrong address.

Sheffield officials said they had now had “productive discussions” with Uber and are looking into a new licence application submitted by the Silicon Valley firm.

“The new application, made by Uber in October, to operate private hire cars in Sheffield is being considered and a decision will be made in early 2018,” the council said in a statement.

Uber also faces a licence renewal decision in Cambridge next week. The taxi app's licences are due to expire in Britain's second-biggest city Birmingham and Scottish capital Edinburgh in early 2018.

Last month it was revealed that Uber had been the subject of a massive data breach which affected 2.7 million UK users of its app.

Hackers obtained personal details of 57 million customers and drivers worldwide, including people's names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers.

Neil McGonigle, head of cities for the north of England for Uber, told councillors there were 28,000 people who regularly use the app in the city.

He said: “Over the course of the last 12 months we have seen a steady increase in the number of people looking to use the service we provide.

“From our experience, the passengers love the ability to have the convenience of pressing a button to request a car, to take a trip without having to use cash at all and, from a safety point of view, being able to track every element of that journey.

“I believe that increased choice and competition is a good thing for both passengers and drivers in terms of increasing standards across the board.”

He added the company had been “open and cooperative” with the council in tackling issues, including where drivers have applied for hire illegally.

A report provided to the meeting at the City of York council offices said that in the previous 12 months, the authority had received 296 complaints about hackney carriage and private hire vehicles, of which more than half related to Uber drivers.

Details of the specific complaints were not made public.

The company has 21 days to make a decision on whether to appeal the committee's decision and can continue to operate in York until its licence expires or the appeal is heard.

Uber's appeal against TfL's decision not to renew its licence will be heard in the spring.

PA

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