Monday, 10 December 2018

High Court Quashes Wakefield Taxi Fees

The High Court has quashed the licensing fees charged for private hire vehicle and Hackney carriage licences set by Wakefield City Council, following a claim for judicial review by the Wakefield District Private Hire and Hackney Association.
His Honour Judge Saffman, sitting as a deputy judge of the High Court, held that the fees charged by Wakefield were unlawful. In particular, the Council had wrongly interpreted section 70 of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and had erroneously charged the costs of enforcement against drivers (for speeding, bad parking, dressing inappropriately and a miscellany of uncivil or illegal conduct) to the control and supervision of vehicles. Wakefield’s case had been that the costs were properly accounted for against vehicles because the errant drivers were driving vehicles. The learned judge described that as ‘stretching beyond breaking point’ the language of the section.
The case is of wider importance as it dispels any suggestion that there is a general principle of law that licensing regimes should be self-financing. The judge made it clear that a local authority’s entitlement to recover from the licence fee the costs of administering a licensing regime is governed by the words of the empowering statute. Where Parliament has awarded local authorities a broad discretion (e.g. “such fee as they think reasonable”) the courts have upheld policies of full cost recovery on the sole ground that the policies, being reasonable, are intra vires; but where, as in s 70 LGMPA 1976, the power to charge a fee is circumscribed by reference to specific heads of recovery, recovery is restricted to those specified heads. Licensing authorities are creatures of statute, and have no powers beyond those which statute has given them.
In the course of the High Court action it became apparent that Wakefield Council has overcharged private hire vehicle licence fees by an aggregate sum in excess of £1million, which will form the subject of a claim for restitution.
Gerald Gouriet QC and Charles Streeten acted for the successful claimant, with the assistance of A2Z licensing


As the article states, the greater legal significance of the judgment was to recognise that there is no general principle of law that requires licensing regimes to be self-financing, but for members of the Wakefield trade, it might be the prospect of being able to bring a restitution claim for in excess of £1 million that was the most significant thing to come out of the case, which was heard by the High Court in Leeds last Wednesday (5 December 2018).

For the sake of completeness, I should advise that the Council was refused permission to appeal to the Court of Appeal, but does, of course, have 21 days in which to renew its application directly to the Court of Appeal.

David B Wilson
a2z Licensing 

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

And So It Begins....Visa Doubles Transaction Charges to 8%

£1bn assault on the High Street: Shopkeepers suffer as Visa hikes fees on card payments. Unfortunately, this will give the green light to increase transaction charges for Taxi drivers taking Card payments. 

It's estimated that shopkeepers will pay £1billion extra a year to payments giant Visa after it hiked fees.

The increase comes as the Taxi trade faced a boom in customers who want to pay by card.

But what many passengers don’t realise is that every transaction costs the driver, and Visa has been accused of cashing in, by hiking its fees.

Card sharks: Taxi drivers have seen a massive increase in customers who pay by card for even the cheapest journeys meaning that drivers with company's that charge the extra 20p on top of the transaction percentage, pay even more in fees

Experts warned that some will see their bills more than double. 

Obviously it's not just Taxis who will be affected, payments consultant CMSPI said that increased card costs will hit Europe’s shops for £2billion.

In the UK alone, which has embraced contactless cards and chip and pin, the bill will be £1billion.

Visa Europe has doubled charges since 2015 from an average 4p per transaction to 8p, says CMSPI. 

Firm’s crippling £26,750 card bill 
Hardware store owner Vin Vara says his firm is struggling because of huge bills from credit card companies.
Vara, 58, employs 38 people at 11 Tool Shop stores in London and lost £20,400 in fees last year as shoppers paid by credit card. 

Some 60 per cent of customers pay by card and he expects the bill to rise to £26,750 this year.
He said: ‘People don’t understand the damage this can do. I’m scared for others on the High St about what’s going to happen to them.’
It used to keep just 1.5p of this as profit but now takes 5p after cutting costs, the consultant said.

CMSPI chief executive Brendan Doyle said: ‘This is incredibly disappointing. Visa, a multinational that consistently reports profit margins in excess of 50 per cent on multi-billion-dollar revenues, is piling cost after cost onto retailers and the latest change will be particularly hard on struggling small businesses.’ 

He added that CMSPI will complain to the European Commission about the hike.

Visa has become more aggressive since it was bought by its US sister firm for £15billion in 2016.

Until then, Visa Europe had been owned by banks, including Lloyds and Royal Bank of Scotland, and they made billions from its sale to namesake Visa Inc. 

The American company’s chief executive Charles Scharf plotted to hugely increase fees – in 2015, he said he hoped to ‘expand yields in Europe’.

MPs and business groups called for regulators to step in.

SNP MP Stewart Hosie, of the Treasury Select Committee, said: ‘It’s a scandal card issuers’ fees have increased massively. I would hope and expect card issuers would think again before they impose these costs.’

Meanwhile, High Street retailers face average hikes for UK card fees of 75 per cent, and other European card costs will come close to trebling with an increase of 189 per cent.

James Lowman of the Association of Convenience Stores said: ‘We encourage the Payment Systems Regulator to look closely at these fees to ensure fairness.’

Andrew Cregan, at the British Retail Consortium, also backed intervention by the regulator.

Visa said: ‘The figures quoted are misleading and over-inflated. Our pricing means we can invest in world-leading cybersecurity and consumer protection, in innovation such as contactless and mobile payments, and in providing a global network which enables billions to make purchases safely, securely and reliably.’

In the past, we've seen many retailers refuse to take Amex because of the time it takes them to pay up. 
We could now see the same exclusion notices regarding payment with Visa cards.

The London Taxi trade haven't been granted the right to choose how they are paid as our largest org says "it was a done deal'....and it was the drivers who were done!

The trade were promised a increase in bums on seats and a massive publicity campaign from just never happen. 

Mike Brown Apologises For ‘Ill-Judged’ Expansion Of Cycle Superhighway, Blamed For Gridlock And Increased Pollution

Farce of the cycle super highways: London transport chief apologises for ‘ill-judged’ expansion that’s blamed for gridlock and increased pollution

             Mike Brown                    Will Norman

Britain’s most powerful transport tsar has now admitted that the the speedy expansion of controversial cycle ‘superhighways’ has actually slowed traffic for motorists.
Mike Brown, the commissioner for Transport for London, criticised the cycle lane expansion in London as ‘ill judged’ and ‘ill thought through’.

He apologised to motorists who say that the segregated cycle lanes are exasperating traffic problems.

Mr Brown, who is a passionate supporter of cycle lanes, said that they had been hurried through under Boris Johnson during his eight-year tenure as London mayor.

Cycling groups, council chiefs and safety campaigners said that the lanes would reduce congestion and pollution - which causes thousands of premature deaths in Britain every year - and that they make the roads safer.

But in practise, the lanes have infuriated most drivers who claim they are stuck in traffic for longer because part of the road has been taken over by bikes. 

Now, Mr Brown's attack on one of Mr Johnson’s flagship policies will likely spark more contentious debate about the further roll out of cycle lanes around the country.

LBC Radio host Nick Ferrari – who claims cycle superhighways have caused the biggest slow down in traffic since the Luftwaffe bombed London in the Second World War - was hosting a debate in London where Mr Brown made his controversial comments. 

Mr Brown said: ‘I apologise absolutely for the way cycle lanes were delivered in the last mayor’s administration’ .

‘I think it was ill-judged, it was too fast and ill thought through in the speed in which it was done, which I’m afraid is the main downside of living in a democracy – people want to do things in their term

But Mr Brown also insisted that that the routes have helped save ‘many, many lives’ and made the roads safer for cyclists.  

Fourteen cyclists were killed in London in 2013 but this tragic number dropped to eight deaths in 2016.

Despite his clear concerns, TFL has now insisted that Mr Brown's negative comments about the cycle infrastructure actually referred to the disruption caused by roadworks as too many lanes were built at the same time - and not to any traffic after they were operational.

But the criticism will provide ammunition for those who believe that cycle lanes being built all over Britain are making the roads more congested by reducing space for motor traffic.

Critics claim that this may actually increase  air pollution as cars are stuck on the roads with their engines running for longer as they idle in traffic.

Will Norman, Sadiq Khan's new cycling tsar wants to diversify cycling  to stop London's cycling routes being overwhelmed by middle class men
And so-called 'mamils' (middle-aged men in lycra) were another target for criticism of a burgeoning British cycle culture.

Mamils are dominating the cycling scene in London, leading to a false perception that cycling is not for everyone, Will Norman, Sadiq Khan's new cycling tsar claimed.

Too few females and people from ethnic minority backgrounds are taking to two wheels around the capital and the Mayor's office could introduce 'diversity targets' to combat the figures.

Despite millions being pumped into the cycling infrastructure in London the majority of those making use of it are middle aged men.

At present, black, Asian and minority ethnic groups account for about 15 per cent of cycled journeys in London – around two-thirds less than Transport for London (TfL) estimates it could be. 

Mr Norman told The Independent: 'There is a problem with cycling and the way it is perceived of getting middle-aged men cycling faster around the city, which is not the objective at all.

'It touches on something which is a real challenge for London cycling, which is diversity.'

Too many cyclists in London are middle-aged men according to the city's new cycling chief

London mayor Sadiq Khan said he would make cycling safer around London.

However, members of the London Assembly said it is not being done quickly enough.

Now Mr Norman said more groups should be benefitting from the changes made.

He added: 'Even when we have seen the growth in the number of cyclists, we haven't seen that diversity.

'There are a number of reasons for that. One is that safety is paramount for getting different people from different walks of life cycling: older people, younger people, those from different backgrounds.'

The way in which the gap will be filled, Mr Norman says, is through projects such as promoting electric bikes, cycling courses and grants for community groups who do not typically cycle.

Schemes could be rolled out across London to diversify the cycling scene. (Pictured: One woman cycles among a pack of men)

There was a six per cent recorded rise in female cyclists after the opening of Quietway 1, which links Waterloo with Greenwich, from 29 per cent to 35 per cent.

Mr Khan promised an average of £169m annually for cycling schemes over the next five years.

'Is it ambitious enough in the longer term? I think we need a higher level of change,' Mr Norman told The Independent.

'The target that we have set out in the mayor's transport strategy is over that 25 years we want to shift to 80 per cent of journeys to be walking, cycling or by public transport.

'That is a much more ambitious target and really is fundamentally rethinking the way that we move around our city.

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