By Local Democracy Reporter
THE popular taxi service Uber could be operating illegally in Thurrock, councillors have heard.
Uber has failed to apply for an operator’s licence from Thurrock Council and tells its drivers that the borough is part of Greater London allowing it to avoid following the same rules as competing firms.
A representative of the Thurrock Taxi Driver Association told a full council meeting on Wednesday that this is “unlawful”.
Councillor John Kent, leader of Thurrock Labour, said: “Uber drivers and Uber cars are not regulated in any way by this council.
“A driver licenced by Thurrock Council can’t simply get in their cab on morning and go and rank up in Upminster. A resident in Basildon can call a cab from a Thurrock operator but the car sent out must by dispatched from Thurrock. I can for instance book a Thurrock taxi firm to take me to an airport or to pick me up but let’s be clear, if they drop me at that airport they are not allowed to pick up a fare once they drop me off.
“Too often it appears the Uber do not abide by these rules, taxi drivers regularly report that Uber cars are parked up in Thurrock waiting for a job to appear on their app and some report Uber drivers accept fares when approached. That is just not reasonable.
“Part of the problem is the geo-fence, a virtual fence around a physical area. That geo-fence allows Uber app to be active within the car of the driver when they are in the geofence, so the driver can then accept a fare. The issue is that the Uber Greater London geofence includes Thurrock. That allows their vehicles and drivers, who are not licenced by Thurrock, to in effect operate from here as though they were in Greater London.
“This is wrong and we need to take steps to encourage Uber to redraw their geofence to create a level playing field in Thurrock.”
He went on to propose a motion that calls on Uber to revise the geofence. While this was narrowly voted through, Conservative councillors did attempt to change the motion so that it was less specific and suggested the licencing committee reviews all aspects of Uber’s operation.
Conservative Councillor James Halden, who voted for the amendment, said: “If there is a concern about illegality then we should investigate the illegality. It doesn’t matter if the geofence boundary is Thurrock or the entire nation. If there is an allegation of illegality, we should investigate that fully.”