End of the road for taxi firm? York revokes operator’s licence

The York Cars office on Blossom Street. Photograph: David Dunning
18 Nov 2020 @ 7.54 am
| Transport

The operator of a large York taxi firm has had his licence revoked after a mammoth meeting by councillors.

York Cars is operated by Mohammed Iqbal. And at a four-hour licensing & regulatory committee meeting last night, members unanimously voted to revoke his licence.

Council records show that there are 154 drivers and 134 vehicles licensed to work on behalf of York Cars.

They found Mr Iqbal unfit to hold an operator’s licence on the following grounds.

  • Enabling drivers (licensed by another authority) that the council would not consider ‘fit and proper’ to work as private hire drivers in York
  • Blaming the council for its stance over Uber for the position, ‘when this is not the case’
  • Operating ‘690 Taxis’ and ‘Street Cars’ in York without an operator’s licence
  • False or misleading customer testimonials.

“All of the above may give rise to concerns with regards to Mr Iqbal’s
honesty and integrity,” a council report said.

You can read more about the allegations against Mr Iqbal in our earlier report.

York Cars said today they intended to appeal the decision.

Will Sword, speaking as a representative of the Hackney carriage and private hire trades in York, told the meeting they completely supported the proposal to revoke the firm’s licence.

“You will struggle to find an issue which galvanises the taxi drivers more than hearing of operators, drivers and vehicles, not authorised by or licensed by our council, working in the city.

“This creates an unfair playing field for those of us who abide by the rules.

“The taxi trade in York stands side-by-side with York council in the belief that this company is not fit and proper.”

York Cars issued this statement this morning: “We are disappointed by the committee’s decision and will be appealing that decision to the courts.

“The committee’s decision to revoke our licence will have no effect on the current running of the company and in the meantime, we can and will continue to trade as usual.

“We do not know how long the whole appeal process might take.”

Leo Charalambides, barrister for the council, told the licensing meeting: “We are not saying Mr Iqbal has done anything unlawful, but that he effectively circumvents your own licensing policy.”

He said Mr Iqbal used a Facebook post to complain about the council’s stance on Uber and intention to protest by licensing cars elsewhere, adding: “Your second largest operator is actively advertising that it’s going elsewhere, ignoring your local requirements in order to continue working in York.”

He said Mr Iqbal put his business needs above public safety.

But Gerald Gouriet QC, representing Mr Iqbal, told the meeting the law allows people licensed elsewhere to operate in York.

He said: “It isn’t Mr Iqbal who enables those drivers to work in York, it is the law of the land.

“It’s widely recognised that there needs to be an amendment of that law. But until it is changed Mr Iqbal is perfectly entitled to take the best commercial advantage he can.

“He need not be ashamed of taking advantage of the law.”

Councillors said they were concerned about the impact on the drivers who work for York Cars, who could lose their jobs, but that they were concerned with public safety and maintaining high standards of operators in York.

After the meeting Labour Group spokesperson for transport, Coun. Rachel Melly, said: “The council’s first priority as a licensing authority must be public safety. Residents and visitors deserve the best service when they take a journey in a York hackney carriage or private hire taxi.

“The committee is right to revoke licences when there is a refusal to meet York’s standards. We need to make sure taxi operators who follow the rules and take pride in good quality service aren’t undermined by operators who circumvent regulations which exist for public protection.”

Additional reporting: Chloe Laversuch, local democracy reporter