Black cab drivers say that they are losing their business by unlicensed and uninsured vehicles with no private hire insurance whatsoever, which is now being investigated by a new city council working party that has now been formed.
A cabbies’ trade representative, who cannot be named made the claims in an email sent to the authority’s licensing committee chairman Coun Bruce Lines. The rep also suggested that hotel and bar security workers were being offered cash to illegally steer passengers towards private hire cars, rather than black cabs.
“After many years as a trade rep, it saddens me the way the travelling public are being treated by what I can best describe as “criminals on wheels” who are prepared to drive without licences or insurance and that Birmingham is the capital of illegal activities.
“Money laundering, intimidation by doormen, mobile thugs in vans and Range Rovers intimidating and threatening hackney carriage drivers from their lawful place of work; drugs and prostitution are all available through private hire that this council is responsible for. No proper in-depth inquiries have ever taken place into the criminals who hide within the private hire operations,” the email said.
Lines said that the new city council working party will address the concerns of the 1,400 black cab drivers in Birmingham.
He explained that, “Touting for private hire vehicles is illegal and our enforcement officers are out and about at various locations.
“This is a countrywide problem, not just Birmingham – it is escalating. We have done a huge amount of consultation on this and have now set up a working group in the hope that there will be recommendations before the full committee in the next few months.”
Lines said that illegal touts know who the enforcement officers are and how it is very hard to catch them. He described them as “very shrewd”.
The owner of Ambassador Cars in Kings Heath, Mohammed Farid, said ‘rouge elements’ within the private hire industry are not representative of the field as a whole.
Farid said, “We do a lot of work in the city centre but it’s all contract-based and we have never seen any examples of these kind of allegations,
“The majority of private hire companies operate entirely within the law.”