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Inter-city row over licensing of Uber drivers heats up; WOLVERHAMPTON COUNCILLOR ACCUSES COVENTRY OF 'FAKE OUTRAGE'.

Byline: ELIS SANDFORD News Reporter

A WAR of words has erupted between councillors in Coventry and Wolverhampton as the row over Uber licensing in the city reaches boiling point.

There is a long-running dispute with Coventry accusing their Midlands neighbours of exploiting a loophole in licensing regulations to allow Uber drivers with Wolverhampton licences to operate in the city.

Wolverhampton Council has made PS1.3 million by giving out taxi licenses this year - with over 200 of these drivers operating out of Coventry.

There are concerns that the licensing of Uber cabs is affecting Coventry's black cab trade, though many residents are in support of Uber's presence in the city.

A Wolverhampton councillor has hit out at the "fake outrage" of Coventry politicians, saying the authority was only interested in preserving its "long-standing cosy relationship" with the hackney carriage trade.

Wolverhampton City Council's Councillor Alan Bolshaw, chairman of City of Wolverhampton Council's licensing committee, said: "The attitude of some Coventry politicians towards the issue of private hire licensing is getting tiresome.

"I'm afraid my patience has run out with those who are cynically trying to drag the reputation of City of Wolverhampton Council through the mud to further their own agenda.

"The reality is that there is a longstanding cosy relationship between Coventry City Council and the hackney carriage trade and preserving this relationship is what this is really about."

Thanks to a loophole, Uber cabs can pick up fares in Coventry despite not being licensed to operate in the city. That means an accident could potentially leave passengers uninsured. Black cab drivers in the city say Uber drivers undercut their prices and do not have the same standard of safety checks that they do. But taxi users in the city say all they want are value fares and efficiency.

Coun Bolshaw said Wolverhampton was doing nothing wrong in giving out licences to drivers.

He said: "It is galling to hear the fake outrage voiced by certain individuals in Coventry who know full well that we are doing nothing wrong here in Wolverhampton.

"People are trying to make out that our standards are lower than Coventry's, but this is absolute nonsense." He added: "Nobody is fooled into thinking that the Coventry opposition is about safety - this is about protectionism and perpetuating the status quo to the detriment of customers.

"You only have to look at the comments left by residents on the Coventry Telegraph website to see that they welcome competition and want that choice."

Talks between Coun Jayne Innes, Coventry City Council's cabinet member for city services, and Coun Bolshaw two weeks ago seemed to have yielded a positive outcome, with talks of improved communication between the two mooted.

But any good feeling appears long gone, with Coventry councillor Damian Gannon accusing Wolverhampton of "handing taxi licences out like sweeties".

He said Wolverhampton did not "give a damn about how it makes the taxi trade unaccountable to Coventry residents".

"Ideally, the taxi trade should be accountable to Coventry residents so if you drive a taxi in Coventry you should be accountable in Coventry," Coun Gannon said.

"At the moment Wolverhampton are exploiting a gap in the licensing regulations to make as much money as they can and that is just plain wrong.

"This is a regional problem. It needs a regional solution and the regional mayor Andy Street should step-in and resolve it."

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War of words: Coun Alan Bolshaw and Coun Damian Gannon
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Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 27, 2017
Words:576
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