08 March 2006

Taxi Fast court case

Plymouth City Council has lost its court case with TaxiFast.
The council now faces a large bill for the case and a large proportion of TaxiFasts costs.
I reported on the background to the case back on 13th February.

From this is Plymouth
City private hire firm Taxifast yesterday won its appeal against a council decision to refuse it a Hackney carriage licence in 2003. The ruling means the council may have to scrap its 359-cab limit on Hackney carriages - a move that could hit current Hackney drivers and bus firms.
And, as well as paying its own costs to challenge the appeal, the authority has been ordered to meet 60 per cent - about £270,000 - of Taxifast's legal costs, estimated at more than £450,000

The council had relied in court on a survey carried out last year that, it claimed, showed there was 'no significant unmet demand' for black cabs in the city. But trial judge Mr Recorder Jonathan Fuller QC decided that the survey data, collected by Plymouth employment agency Mayflower Recruitment and analysed by Transport Planning (International) Ltd, was not 'sufficiently reliable'. It followed allegations made in court by Mayflower employee Elizabeth Hamilton-Bruce that she was asked to falsify hundreds of questionnaires used in the survey.

The council spokesman said: "Plymouth City Council is disappointed with the court decision that 'whilst Plymouth City Council acted reasonably throughout' a portion of the evidence upon which it relied was found to be unreliable through no fault of the council. "The court did not find there was significant unmet demand; all it found was that Plymouth City Council had failed to show there was no significant unmet demand. "Plymouth City Council will study this case and consider any implications for its current policy on Hackney carriages."

It does indeed look like it was through no fault of the council this time as it seems that the company which undertook the survey didnt do it properly. Or at least thats what it looks like. The company itself may well end up having to face further charges on this issue
as also reported by This is Plymouth

A Plymouth employment agency which conducted the survey on which the city council relied in court could face prosecution for forgery. Trial judge Mr Recorder Jonathan Fuller QC has called on the Director of Public Prosecutions to investigate the way in which Mayflower Recruitment carried out the survey into cab demand. It comes after Mayflower employee Elizabeth Hamilton-Bruce told the court that she was asked to falsify questionnaires by the firm's director, Christopher Moore.

This looks like it will run for a while yet!
I am usually among the first to criticise the council - they certainly are a poor council in many areas but it really does look like they have been caught out here through no major fault of their own. Many taxi drivers are against Taxi fast getting more licenses so there is not universal support for Mr Preece within the trade. I am not sure how big a threat it will be to bus companies though?

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