#Crawley Observer Column, Wednesday 21st October 2020

Local government has a long history in England, its earliest roots going back to William the Conqueror. Over the centuries, various responsibilities were devolved from central government, with different local boards set up to undertake them. As time went on this produced a confusing mess of overlapping structures and, at the end of Nineteenth Century, county and district councils were set up to provide democratic oversight and simplify the system by merging all previous administrative and regulatory responsibilities into two tiers of councils. One responsibility districts took on at this time was regulation of hackney carriages.

When we think of councils, we typically consider the services they provide, yet their regulatory role is vital in keeping the public safe and improving local conditions. When it comes to the regulation of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles, councils have a duty to ensure that anyone driving a Crawley Borough Council-licensed vehicle not only knows the local area well, but can be trusted to get passengers to their destination safely.

Crawley has some of the most stringent taxi licensing conditions of any authority and where drivers fail to meet these requirements, council officers are able to take enforcement action against them. The same isn’t true of Uber. Uber don’t have a license to operate in Crawley and any driver taking bookings through the app won’t be licensed by the council. Unfortunately, since 2015, Uber have been able to exploit a loophole in the legislation to operate in Crawley, without meeting local requirements and without the council being able to protect those using an Uber in same way we can with a Crawley-licensed vehicle.

We’ve been lobbying the Government to fix the loophole for some time, but with work drying up it’s Crawley’s local drivers, almost all of whom live in the town, who follow the rules and pay to maintain the licensing regime necessary to keep people safe, who are suffering every time someone opts for an Uber. Times are tough, let’s stick together as a community with the people who play by the rules, rather than supporting London drivers poaching Crawley jobs.

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