Can you get home safely from a night on the lash in Liverpool?

taxi

If you want to get home safely after a night out then flag down a ‘Black Hack’ or ring up or use an app from a local company. Just getting into any old vehicle on the street is dangerous

Last night I did something I haven’t done for many a year. I went out on the town in Liverpool. I wasn’t on the pull (honestly Erica) and I wasn’t on the lash with my mates (honestly Erica). I was out with the Taxi Alliance in Liverpool after they came to see me to describe the problems they face as a legitimate business in Liverpool. The Taxi Alliance is the largest of the representative bodies for Taxi drivers in Liverpool but is having major problems getting meetings with the relevant staff.

I was appalled at what I saw. Streets that I see throughout the day as lovely streets were chocker with people many of them highly intoxicated and much the worse for it. But that is not what I was looking at. I was looking at the problems of safe movement of people into town but more specifically getting out of town safely at night.

It seemed to me that Liverpool City Council has basically abandoned its duties for safe travel. In the space of two hours between 11 and 1 I saw:

  • Every taxi rank in Central Liverpool clogged up with private cars obviously parked there for the night
  • Dozens of private hire drivers either waiting on those taxi ranks or illegally ranking at appropriate places as they know people leave particular types of premises. The person I was with approached one of these and the driver immediately offered to take him to Aigburth for a tenner. Probably not on the financial system so avoiding tax.
  • Private hire vehicles blatantly acting as taxis and taking people away without having been called on their radio through a central booking system.
  • Private Hire cars from 7 Boroughs outside Liverpool clearly not just dropping people off from their own areas but touting for trade.
  • Taxis, of all types, wilfully ignoring traffic signs, including private hire going the wrong way down a one-way street.

Why am I concerned about this? Surely all we need to do is ensure that people get home quickly after a night out. Well I have four concerns:

  1. If you get a Black Hackney in Liverpool you know that you are getting a driver in a proper vehicle, who is properly insured as properly qualified. This also is true for the private hire trade which is owned by local firms.
  2. If private hires and private cars are illegally parking in or using taxi ranks then the Hackney taxis cannot park there and wait for custom. That means they are having to circle around the city centre adding to both congestion and pollution while they wait to be flagged down.
  3. People getting into private hires without having asked for them in the first place are entering potential danger zone. They are also uninsured if there is an accident because they obtained a fare illegally.
  4. Traffic regulations, one way streets and safe parking areas are there for a reason. Anyone, but especially professional drivers’ who blatantly ignore them are placing a large number of people in danger.
  5. Many of the people coming in to Liverpool from elsewhere have not done the knowledge for Liverpool. In fact they don’t need to do a ‘knowledge’ test at all. Being a taxi driver is a lot more than just going the quickest way from point A to point B. It’s about being an ambassador for the City; advising strangers and having a duty of care to the people they are looking after.

It seemed to me that Liverpool City Council has abandoned its duties of care to the people of Liverpool and visitors by not being far more proactive on these issues. I saw no Taxi enforcement staff although there may have been some on duty. The Police were looking for trouble of a different sort and were just ignoring traffic infringements which were taking place under their nose.

Tomorrow I will be doing two things:

  1. Asking for a meeting with both the City Manager and BID team to see what can be done in the short term to tackle these pressing issues; and
  2. Asking our Regional Mayor candidate, Cllr Carl Cashman, to immediately bring together the taxi licensing staff of the 6 Boroughs to try and coordinate their work. We need to have a coherent strategy to deal with these issues but also across the whole conurbation as drivers with cheaper vehicles and running costs abuse the honey pot of central Liverpool on a Friday or Saturday night.

This is not a minor issue. This is not about unfair regulation of a specific sector. This is about the safety of people in the City; the quality of the experience that they get; it’s about promoting the wonderful City Centre that we have on a 24 hour basis and it’s about making sure that Liverpool taxi and private hire drivers get a fair crack of the whip from the market and money which is available.

ADDED PIECE

What the Council needs to do to sort out the taxi trade in Liverpool

Following on from my blog about my tour around the streets of Liverpool with the Taxi Alliance and Liam Thorp from the Liverpool Echo my campaign for safety on our streets has been taken up by the Guardian and the Daily Mirror.

Next week I will be having a meeting with the Council’s City Manager and other senior staff. This what I will ask for:

  1. The development of a partnership between the Police and Council to deal with this issue on a regular not occasional basis
  2. At least 4 taxi enforcement officers on the streets in hi-vis jackets every Friday and Saturday nights
  3. Proper signage for taxi ranks
  4. Parking enforcement officers patrolling all taxi ranks and disable parking bays enforcing parking restrictions
  5. Random checks on Private Hire vehicles to ensure that are not illegally plying for hire
  6. Regular checks on vehicle safety of both hackney and private hire vehicles.
  7. Regular meetings between the council in the office and on site and all representatives of the taxi and private hire trade.

Let’s see what the council say about this.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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