27 June 2007

The Summons

So I have had my summons to attend at Cotton Street towers for my appeal hearing against the Fixed Penalty issued under the Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005. Looking forward to my chance to protest against the fine and if all else fails at least I have bought myself an extra month before it has to be paid. Will keep you updated.

25 June 2007

Useful Meeting ? Aye right !

So in I went to the meeting full of hope, full of ideas, certain that the Cooncil man was going to have to listen to me and have to do something about the safety of the guys and girls it was happy to take money from to license them and it all began well.

I explained the circumstances of the two incidents I had been involved in since the turn of the year and Mr Cooncil Man wrote it all down, stopping me to allow him to catch up with his scribing. He then rather prudly announced that he had been looking into the issues raised in my email and had phoned Glasgow City Council and East Renfrewshire Council to find out what they were doing, and they didn't see the need to do anything.

I then cited examples of what various English councils and police forces were doing in order to improve safety for the drivers and the public to which a straight faced official responded "Aye but thats down in England". Sorry did I miss something, is the culture of our land so different that the border automatically removes the similarities between two guys doing the same job ?

So I pressed on, suggesting a Safety Awareness exhibition where the Council could invite suppliers of devices aimed at the Driver market and through a small fee cover all their costs thus giving Renfrewshire Cooncil a bit of credibility for no cost, and letting the drivers and public see that Renfrewshire was serious about the safety of its citizens and license payers. Silence was the deafening response.

So undeterred I pushed on with option two, a safety leaflet that could be put on the Cooncil website, and that of the Polis if they wanted, in the form of a PDF file. How much would this cost, the square root of hee haw, but again Silence.

It was at this stage that I informed the Enforcement Officer that I would most likely be handing back my plate and license as I was fed up with the lack of support from the Cooncil and Police. At this point he stopped even kidding on he was listening to me and began to try to rush me out the door advising me I probably had more important things to be doing, patronising c~~t. When I explained that even if I gave in my license this problem was still going to be faced by other drivers I was advised that "in the 10 years I have been here, since leaving the Police (surprise sur-f@@king-prise), I am only aware of 6 attacks on drivers."

Well if thats the case I have been unfortunate enough to be involved in 33.33% of these, and a further 33.33% have happened to drivers in the last 9 months (see your Paisley Daily Express for details of attacks in Gallowhill and Inchinnan on drivers from Paisley Cab Co) which leaves just 2 attacks in the prior 9 years and 3 months. Aye right.

Is that why numerous drivers have anti stab devices, don't work nights, don't pick up certain hires. Or is it that we all know the Council and the Police don't give a flying f@@k and just don't report it. I'll let you decide.

20 June 2007

The Caring Cooncil

Well given that this was my third reported incident to Mill Street in 18 months and on all occasions I had given them either Reigistration numbers, name and phone number or name and address and they had not once done anything to follow up I decide to send a complaint to the Chief of Strathclyde Police and handed in a three page official complaint letter on 5th June to Pitt Street, still no reply.

After a bit of deliberation and still seething at the attitude of the police I decided that as the local Licensing Authority were responsible for licensing of Taxi and Private Hire cars and drivers I would find out what they were doing about driver safety. Having trawled the website and assorted paraphernalia I had received over the last 4 years from the enforcement team I drew a blank. An email was required :

Dear Sir / Madam
Please advise me as to what Renfrewshire Councils stance on safety of Private Hire and Taxi Drivers licenced by the authority is and what measures are being taken to improve driver safety.
The reason for my request is that as the holder of a Private Hire Operators Licence and Private Hire Drivers licence from Renfrewshire Council I am concerned as to my safety at work and no support or advice seems to be available from the council. It appears you are more interested in taking the money from licence holders and spot checking cars for cleanliness than working to improve safety for drivers.
In the past 6 months I have been the victim of two attacks and on both occasions have reported these to Mill Street Police Office and been extremely concerend by their lack of action and attitude to these crimes as being unavoidable, undetectable and just "part of the job".
Having extensivley checked the councils website and printed literature I can find no mention of any support or safety initiatives for drivers and operators.
I look forward to your swift response as after this most recent attack on Saturday lunchtime I am seriously considering returning my plate and giving up. Attacks are bad enough but to have no support from Police or Licencing Authority gives the perpetrators of these attacks the green light to carry on as they are and leave hard working, law abiding families to pick up the pieces.
I look forward to your response.

So within a day I had a response and things were looking positive :

I refer to the above matter and your email dated 4 June 2007 and note all
that you write.

I am extremely concerned to note that you have been the subject of two
attacks while working as a Private Hire Driver, and am very keen to discuss
with you how you can feel and be safer at work.

In order that I can address your concerns, please arrange to attend at the
Licensing Department at 2.00pm on Monday 11 June 2007 to see myself.

So I looked around the web, chatted on Taxi Driver websites and basically done a fair bit of research into what other Licensing Authorities and Police Forces were doing on this subject and off I went to the meeting, full of hope that the Council cared about the drivers and not just about the fees they charge for the licenses and putting drivers off the road for a few stray crumbs on the back seat of the car. But oh how wrong I was ........

17 June 2007

Private Hire no more, Paisley no more

So I began this blog by stating that I was an ex private hire driver in Paisley and one of the main reasons for starting this was the number of residents of Renfrewshire that got in my car and expressed their dissatisfaction and anger at the way that the bureaucrats at Cotton Street Towers were allowing the towns of the shire to degenerate.

But here is the story of how I became an ex private hire driver.

At the start of June I was involved in an incident, while out working at lunchtime on a Saturday, that was to become the hire that broke the saloon cars axle. After picking up in the heart of the town I was taken on a magical mystery tour of the roads less travelled, by a couple of our local chemically dependent residents, apparently calling them junkie scum is no longer politically correct.

At the final drop off the usual well rehearsed routine was played out with the whole I'll be 2 minutes while I get the fare mate, she'll stay in the motor began. As the stopwatch hit 30 seconds she began the usual engaging me in conversation act. With 2 minutes on the clock the I'll just go and get him scene began and after refusing to leave her bag in the car off she trotted to join with her fellow zombie. Not uncommon and not a hell of a lot that can be done about it with your livelihood, property and chest cavity to protect.

For a change though I decided this time I would do something about it, so on seeing them skulk out a side door I boldly got out the car and shouted them over, only to find zombie boy wanted to talk with his fists. Weighing up my options I got back in the car and called the constabulary.

After being advised it wasn't a priority and I would be better off going into Mill Street off I went and found Constable Incompetent at the desk. After repeated attempts by him to dissuade me from making a complaint off he trotted to get what I believe would be a crime report form. Must have been all out of them as he returned with a scrap bit of A4 and proceeded to scribble down my details. After again advising me I was wasting my time he failed to provide me with a Crime Number and off I went, thoroughly despondent at the lack of interest shown by Strathclyde Police (again, but more of that soon).

I decided then that I would instead engage the services of Renfrewshire Council, what with them being the Licensing Authority surely they would be of help, but then again ....

13 June 2007

You want to pay by card ...........

So after much deliberation I had decided I was a bit too busy to fight the council on the Smoking Fixed Penalty despite the fact that the FP Notice was flawed in a number of ways, from how it was issued to the details contained on it.

So I picked up the Fixed Penalty, the phone and my debit card and called up the number on the back to get it over and done with. However on calling through I was advised that I had to pay a £0.25 processing charge for payment by Debit Card or £1.00 for payment by Credit Card. Now call me a penny pincher but depending on the method of payment and whether you are paying within 14 or 29 days this amounts to an additional charge of between 0.5% and 3.33%

On the back of the form where the payment options are and the phone number there is no mention of this charge, so I declined the offer to pay extra and decided instead to go to the trouble of contesting the charge. Meanwhile I emailed the Environmental Services Department to complain about this additional charge :

Dear Sir / Madam
I am writing to complain about the lack of accurate payment information on the back of your Fixed Penalty Notice - Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005.
When phoning up to pay my Fixed Penalty notice I was advised that there are charges of £0.25 for the use of a debit card and £1.00.
It is therefore misleading and poor practice for the Council to fail to note on the form that when paying by telephone "A charge will be made for all payments by credit or debit card".
Please respond with the reason for this as hidden charges are at best morally wrong and at worst a penalty charge for persons unable to go in person to pay their fine.

Imagine my surprise then when a matter of only 6 hours later a Council employee who obviously works quicker and harder than most sent me the following reply :

I have referred your complaint to the Legal Department of the Council who
were involved in the layout and format of the fixed penalty notice.
My understanding is that anyone phoning to pay by credit or debit card is
advised of the charge before proceeding with the transaction, however I
take your point that the information could be on the notice. Irrespective
of the reply from legal I will arrange for the instructions on the form to
be changed when they are being reprinted.
I trust this will be sufficient.

Not bad in terms of speed, and a swift passing of the buck to legal who only 1 working day later gave this response :

Complaint re information on Fixed Penalty Notices

Thank you for your e-mail of 7 June 2007, sent to Environmental Services in
connection with the information contained on the reverse of the fixed
penalty notice. This communication has been passed to Legal Services as the
District Court is responsible for recovery of the sum due.

I would advise that the District Court has no statutory obligation to offer
the facility to make payment of fixed penalty notices or any other type of
notices or fines by Debit or Credit card. The Court offers this facility
along with telephone payments as options for customers who can then decide
which method is most suitable for them.

I confirm that when the Fixed Penalty Notices are issued for reprinting we
shall consider adding details of charges which may be incurred on available
payment methods.

Thank you for your comments regarding this matter.

So we will wait and see if it changes or whether it is the usual lip service offered by the council when you complain about something. Interesting to note however that they hide behind the legal jargon of not being under any statutory obligation to offer the facility to pay by Debit or Credit Card.

Mind you given the rate they are handing out these fixed penalties it shouldn't be too long until they need to print up some more.

12 June 2007

Ye canny smoke there pal !

So there I was, parked up in my car, owned and registered in my name and on my own time so imagine my distress when a strange looking man thrust a clipboard towards me and informed me that I was committing an offence under Wee Jack McConnell's Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005.

I was then detained for around 10 minutes whilst this clipboard weilding supposed officer of the Council, will never know who he was as he didn't show me any ID, started to take down my details and issue me with a fixed penalty. It is only now with hindsight and investigation that I have discovered the following conditions are supposed to be met by the issuing officers :

1 All enforcement officers must be in full uniform and have ID
2, Their car or van must display the environment stickers.
3, They cannot pull you over
4, They cannot detain you against your will
5, You do not have to give them your name or address
6, There must be 2 of them before they can issue any fine

Well 1,2 and 4 were not fulfilled. 3 was not relevant as I was parked up, 5 was not explained to me as being an option and 6 may or may not have been fulfilled as there was another dodgy looking character behind my car but never had the courtesy to identify himself.

So on receiving the fine I decided to have a better look into the facts and figures and it would appear that Renfrewshire Council are the best at 1 thing at least -

Total Fixed Penalty notices issued in Scotland from 26/03/06 (start of ban) to 31/03/07 :


Top Councils for Issuing Fines :

1. Renfrewshire 193 (29.33% of total fines)
2. Fife 104 (15.80% of total fines)
3. East Ayrshire 100 (15.20% of total fines)

So between 3 Councils, out of the Scottish total of 23 Councils over 60% of the fixed penalties.

Glasgow and the City of Edinburgh with the biggest populations have given out just 28 between them.

Well done Renfrewshire you are top dog for something, glad my Council Tax money is not being wasted.

The Wee Man and the Wee Minds

OK so as I said up until recently I was a Private Hire driver in Paisley, but no longer. This is primarily due to two incidents - one directly relating to the Council and one directly relating to the lack of action by the local constabulary and the council licensing department. So my first few stories will be about these incidents and the ongoing story behind them.

Fear not though this isn't going to be the ongoing theme here, its just the most recent and personal experiences I have had of the Council so that seems like the right place to begin .....