Taxi licence price slashed but reform gives back to customers

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first_imgDrivers and consumers are the big winners from the government’s response to the Victorian Taxi Inquiry, but old license holders won’t be happy. The Victorian government has approved most of the 139 recommendations Professor Allan Fels made 18 months ago, designed to “move toward effective self-regulation and to improve the quality of taxi and hire car services for consumers”. The most contentious proposal that was met with months of lobbying from licence owners has remained in part. Licences will now be reduced to $22,000 yearly at the consumer price index minus 0.5 per cent for metropolitan taxi services. Those who hold Greater Melbourne Taxi Licence Release licences will not have to pay the yearly licence fee for 12 years. A new Taxi Services Commission will monitor who receives a new licence and how many they will allocate. The new measures are designed to open up the taxi field to more investors, thereby putting more taxis on the road while creating more competition and therefore better service to customers. Licence holders who bought their licences recently for close to $500,000 will see their investment de-valued if the commission chooses to flood the market with lots of licences. The government upped the recommended licence fee by just $2,000 to “provide some additional assistance to current licence holders”. Taxi Industry Stakeholders Victoria (TISV) spokesperson and owner of Taxilink Harry Katsiabanis says their lobbying fell on deaf ears. “We were screaming for reform, but we wanted the right reform that would make a sustainable industry,” he told Neos Kosmos. He is now concerned with the new commission’s role in licence approvals. “My biggest concern is that the government will release an unlimited amount of licenses and will review it later once they think the market has stagnated,” he says. “Once you dilute that market size by more taxis, at the end of the day it just means less revenue per car.” Time will tell if the commission will be of real use to the industry. Starting on July 1 this year, the commission will be headed by Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Graeme Samuel and will act in many ways to reduce red tape and regulate an industry that’s been left untouched for years. Not-for-profit taxi insurance company Taxicare thinks increasing competition isn’t going to make services better. “The fact that more taxis will be on the road doesn’t necessarily mean that drivers will be better qualified or the public be served any better,” CEO George Karayianidis says. The reforms have aimed to better educate drivers and promote better standards. Drivers now will be better renumerated, with either a 55 per cent take each fare or a specific hourly payment plan based on a new minimum wage sum. A new independent and comprehensive exam for new taxi drivers will aim to give an industry standard knowledge base while promoting good behaviour. Credit card fees have also halved, with the government reducing the 10 per cent fee to five in a bid to make fares cheaper. The disabled will benefit greatly from new driver training and subsidies for wheelchair accessible taxis (WAT). More incentives will be given to licence holders who convert their cars to WATs, while a central booking service just for WATs will help people with a disability get better, quicker service. Shared rides, discounted fares and set-route services will also make their mark in the coming months, while discussions with Melbourne Airport will look to provide better services to customers and drivers looking for specific fares. Country taxis are big winners too, with cheaper fares and flexible services making it through the recommendations. Public Transport Minister Terry Mulder says “the demand for services in regional areas far outweighs the supply of taxis and hire cars”. Country taxis will be better integrated to coincide with public and community transport, and taxi-bus services and share rides will be vital for cheaper fares. Country taxis will be exempt from the yellow taxi rule and will be able to carry advertising on their vehicles. The Victorian Government Response to the Taxi Industry Inquiry is available to download at Facebook Twitter: @NeosKosmos Instagramlast_img

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Tribunal declares Union rules changes invalid

first_imgOutgoing Union President Mayank Banerjee’s controversial rules changes have been declared null by a tribunal, whilst Returning Officer Thomas Reynolds was cleared of interfering with Union elections.Banerjee, whose term ends at midnight on Saturday, fought for the rules changes, which involved the legalising of campaigning, including slates, and the introduction of a Re-Open Nominations (RON) option. In a poll he conducted in 5th week, over 90 per cent of voters approved the rule changes. However, Returning Officer Thomas Reynolds, who ran the Union elections in a 7th week which saw Roberto Weeden-Sanz elected as President for Trinity 2015 after he ran unopposed, issued an interpretation which declared the rule changes invalid during the election. At the time, Reynolds stated that in changing the rules via poll, Banerjee’s own interpretation of the rules was “wrong”, adding that under the conditions of the President’s poll, “It is insupportable for me to run these Elections in a transparent and correct manner.” Reynolds issued the ballot papers for the election without a RON option on them, despite Banerjee insisting that the rule changes would be in place for the election.Banerjee had originally claimed that if his rule changes were not in place for the election, he would resign. However, he told Cherwell that despite the tribunal’s decision that his rule changes were invalid, he would not be resigning in the few hours he had left of his tenure, also refusing to comment on the decision until after the tribunal’s report had been published.Furthermore, candidates who campaigned in the 7th week elections will not face a tribunal, Cherwell understands, as the deadline has passed for this term — despite the fact that the tribunal’s decision suggests that candidates who campaigned broke Union rules. Although Reynolds was cleared of interfering with the election, the tribunal’s statement does not specifically state that his interpretation of the rules was correct. It is understood that they will release a new interpretation of the rules in due course.Reynolds also refused to comment on the decision.It remains to be seen whether incoming president Lisa Wehden, who could also not be reached, will attempt to push through the rule changes in her tenure next term.last_img

Hoboken mayor urges council not to move to make appointments to…

first_imgHOBOKEN– According to a press release from the city, Mayor Ravi Bhalla is asking the city council to reconsider its intention to transfer appointment authority of three full rent board members and two alternates from the mayor to the city council based on a legal analysis provided by corporation counsel.Corporation counsel notes that the city council’s proposed actions related to the Rent Leveling and Stabilization Board violate New Jersey State statutes.The quasi-judicial nine-member Rent Leveling and Stabilization Board is comprised of residents and tenants. It hears cases such as those of landlords who are applying for a hardship exception to the city’s long-term rent control laws, which keep rent increases to a few percents each year.During the last council meeting, the council approved five out of the seven mayoral appointments to the board, not including residents Warren Hall and Heath Urban whom Bhalla resubmitted for consideration at this week’s special council meeting, which will take place on Thursday, March 15 at 7 p.m.“State law is very clear about how appointments should be made to boards,” said Bhalla in the release. “Any decisions made by board members who are improperly appointed calls into question the validity of determinations made by the Rent Board. I hope that the Council will reconsider their actions and provide their advice and consent regarding the nominations of Mr. Hall and Mr. Urban, two highly qualified appointees who I know would serve our community well.”According to a March 5 memo from the city’s law department to the council, the new ordinance which would allow the council to appoint members to the board is in violation of the Faulkner Act.A March 12 memo from the mayor to the council states, “On March 5, the Law Department submitted a legal memorandum advising you that the City Council does not have the legal authority to unilaterally appoint members to the Rent Control Board … Despite the March 5th legal memorandum, this Ordinance is still on the March 15, 2018, City Council Agenda, along with a series of resolutions wherein the City Council appears to be illegally attempting to appoint Rent Control Board members. These items should be removed from the City Council agenda, as you have been advised that you do not have the legal authority to take such actions.” ×last_img

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