I left the London minicab industry for good back on 14th April 2016 and I will not return. It has changed beyond all recognition since I first drove a London minicab – a Ford Cortina Mark 5 – as an owner driver in 1985.
Technology has driven prices down so far that it is no longer viable to drive a minicab with Uber or Addison Lee as a self employed person if you do not wish to claim benefits.
UberX drivers I have spoken with have family members that are dependent on them either in this country or overseas. In most cases they are the sole income provider and most receive a variety of benefits. I say most because some were less inclined to share what benefits, if any, they received as a result of their low net income.
Addison Lee drivers are in a similar precarious state.
My position on this is very simple. If you need benefits to stay self employed then, sadly, your business model has failed and it is time to get a job.
Clearly, though, the growth of Uber shows no signs of slowing. However, in London, the opportunity that Uber and the slowly failing Addison Lee now provides is the very antithesis of self employment. The test of self employment fails in so many areas.
Research by Citizens Advice has suggested that as many as 460,000 people could be falsely classified as self-employed, costing up to £314m a year in lost tax and employer national insurance contributions.
The financial secretary to the Treasury, Jane Ellison, announced in October 2016 that HM Revenue and Customs was launching a specialist unit to investigate companies who opt out of giving workers employment protections by using agency staff or calling them self-employed.
This is nothing new as Steve Williams writes in his excellent book Introducing Employment Relations – A Critical Approach. But the scale with which the new on demand “sharing” economy has grown is frightening. Uber has grown by British taxpayers subsidising most of their “self employed” drivers by tax credits.
Uber is a giant corporation pursuing monopoly power and fighting governments the world over. What exactly is being shared here, and in whose interest?
What is explicitly not shared is responsibility. When something goes wrong with Uber, they just say: “It wasn’t me.” (The mega-corporation is purportedly neither buyer nor seller but innocent middleman.)
It is time I stepped aside for a less experienced and less able man. And I have done so.
January 2019 saw the sale of my social marketing division of Cab4Now.com which allowed the launch of Cab4Now Direct as I have signed a five year non compete agreement.
I closed Cab4Now Direct January 2020 due to changes at Google maps and my map plugin provider which I had neither the time nor inclination to implement the changes required here for it to continue to function.