Self-employed drivers’ claims of bullying, discrimination and unethical practices against private hire companies have been found to be ‘unsubstantiated’ by Milton Keynes Council.
At the end of 2018 drivers went on strike and the Milton Keynes Private Hire Independent Association (MKPIA) tabled a 249-name petition with the Regulatory Committee alleging that private hire operators were:
Bullying drivers to collect a 20p hidden charge; not advising customers of additional charges; conducting unethical practices by dismissing a driver; collecting charges that were abolished by government; and being discriminatory and part of monopoly practices.
Jason Agar, the taxi licensing manager, said he believed that the petition reflected the “frustration” of private hire drivers with how tough the trade is since ‘deregulation’ of the industry in 2015.
This has meant, Mr Agar said, that many of the 3,000 private hire drivers in Aylesbury Vale head to MK to try to make a living. This has allowed the companies to keep prices ‘low’, he said. He said he had ’empathy’ for the drivers.
Companies, he said, had not been able to charge 50p for credit card bookings, so instead they have introduced a 20p charge that every customer has to pay. However, Mr Agar said there had been a delay in some companies updating their websites even though the new charging rules were being correctly followed.
The council wrote to city private hire operators Skyline, Speedline, and Bounds, asking them a series of questions.
Mr Agar’s report concluded: “There is no evidence to suggest that these operators have acted unethically; unlawfully; or bullied/discriminated against their drivers.
“If evidence of this behaviour had been uncovered then the operator’s licence would be reviewed in accordance with council policy.”
He added that the council has no powers to set private hire customer fare charges and to regulate financial contractual arrangements between operators and drivers.