A couple of years ago I read Proofiness: The Dark Arts of Mathematical Deception by Charles Seife. He reels us in with an assessment of how numbers are used to do exactly that. In fact, it might be said he is of the opinion that “figures lie and liars figure.”
As regular readers know I recently left Addison Lee due to a collapse in my earnings of around 50%. However, in a recent protest organised @GMBProDrivers Addison Lee denied that the recently introduced price cuts on fares of 30%+ had adversely affected drivers.
“Despite the number of private hire drivers in the London market increasing by over 50% in the past 2 years, our average driver earnings have increased by 5% compared to this time last year,” said an Addison Lee spokesperson.
The Addison Lee spokesperson goes even further. “We can assure all our clients that our drivers are fairly compensated for their time and service.” Absolute bollocks. Their argument is simply untenable. I doubt anyone believes that self employed Addison Lee drivers would protest if that was the true position.
Addison Lee’s Andy Boland really has gone the extra mile with the power of skewed metrics – or “proofiness” – in an attempt to alter the public’s perception of the recent driver protest at Carlyle’s office in Berkeley Square. The Carlyle Group is the majority shareholder in Addison Lee.
Proofiness has a dark side: bogus mathematical formulas used to undermine our democracy – subverting our justice system, fixing elections and swaying public opinion with lies. By doing the real math, Seife elegantly and good-humouredly scrutinises our growing obsession with metrics while exposing those who misuse them. I’d wager that Uber and Addison Lee will both be featured heavily when a new edition is published.
Each article that I write here at Cab4Now takes several hours occasionally spread over a week or two. I always go to great efforts to check and re-check facts and source quotes before publication. I use Twitter and Google mainly. On a recent Google search to find the video above I tapped in to Google
Addison Lee drivers earning more
and the results at the time of publication are displayed on this page for the record. A live search now is here. I was rather pleased to note that anybody looking will see Cab4Now as the de-facto choice for information on “Addison Lee drivers earning more” as four of the first six results on page one of Google are links to Cab4Now. The main one being the category listing of Addison Lee. At least Google is, currently, allowing the truth to be seen that Addison Lee drivers are NOT earning more. For the moment.
Many people, both London minicab drivers and London taxi drivers, have been critical of past articles that I have written. Hundreds of comments have been published over the last six years. Every comment is published without censorship. I believe in free speech. Most know that I was an advocate of the free market. I changed my opinion on this last year. This was because the London minicab market for drivers is in tatters due to government policies allowing mass immigration which has priced out thousands of indigenous London minicab drivers who have chosen or cannot afford to work any longer driving a minicab in London.
We are seeking to get trade to agree there should be national minimum fares for both Taxi and Private hire and to seek legislation for this.
— GMB Pro Drivers (@GMBProDrivers) June 27, 2014
I have, for over a year now, supported an immediate cap on the number of London minicab drivers being licensed by TfL, tests on conversational English, a test nearer to London’s Knowledge test for London taxi drivers and a test for driving ability based on the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) courses.
Over @GMBProDrivers they are seeking national minimum fares for both Taxi and Private hire and to seek legislation for this. I am of the opinion that there should be no price differentiation between London taxi fares and London private hire fares so I support their stance. There also may need to be a London weighting on fares. But before London taxi driver readers spit their dummies out, punch their screen and this article disappears in to oblivion stay with me and let me explain how that will benefit the best of both sides of the fence.
Throughout the UK there is little difference in price between private hire fares and taxi fares. Most use the same meter. London can no longer, with the arrival of Uber, live in a taxi pricing bubble. The lobbying of parliament to prevent London private hire operators using a meter in their minicabs was the biggest own goal by the London taxi trade organisations. It allowed Addison Lee and many others to blow the gold standard of London taxi drivers out of the water.
Today, Uber is continuing to take market share from Addison Lee, all other operators and the London taxi trade. That will continue until the demise of Addison Lee, most other operators and the London taxi trade is complete. Dozens of London taxi drivers have told me that their earnings have dropped by over 30%. It will not end there. There will be further price cuts at Uber in a few months. Every time Uber cuts prices there is a surge in people downloading the Uber app. Yes, I know they’re crap but being the best – that means you, London taxi drivers – doesn’t matter any more. I’m sorry. Don’t shoot the messenger.
If there was, by way of legislation, no price differentiation between UK taxi fares and UK private hire fares in each town or city throughout the UK – including London – then that would restrict the growth of Uber because people would then choose based on availability, quality of service, knowledge, service charges, run in charges, account fees, etc.
Does anyone really think that Addison Lee would have grown to the size it is if they hadn’t been able to compete on price? Yes, their service was great. It’s not so hot now because their driver average length of service has been in freefall for some time but they were the gold standard of minicabs.
Now, in this world, there’s nothing for nothing. Unless you’re TfL, of course.
I believe that the vast majority of minicab drivers in London are not up to the job. Every TfL licensed minicab driver should be retested as I wrote about here. No grandfather rights. Sorry London minicab drivers. But look at the state TfL has left the taxi and private hire industry in. It is the fairest route. Three failures on driving, conversation or knowledge with resits allowed and a driver’s private hire license is suspended for one year while they become a standard nearer to a London taxi driver so they can be proud to be a London minicab driver if they eventually pass.
Should a London minicab driver earn a similar amount to a London taxi driver? I believe the answer is a qualified yes subject to the following criteria:-
- Passing a London minicab knowledge test nearer to the London taxi knowledge.
- Passing a London driving skills test administered by the Institute of Advanced Motorists.
- Passing a London conversational test administered by TEFL centres UK wide.
The London minicab knowledge test would be administered by a new UK wide government regulator to replace TfL and other local authority licensing operations.
The effect of such bold government initiatives would immediately reduce the number of private hire drivers in London by more than half. Most shouldn’t be driving in London professionally any way. The demand for the services of the remaining London minicab and London taxi drivers will explode and it will be up to private hire operators and London taxi drivers to meet this demand. The consumer will have a simple choice based on availability, quality of service, knowledge, service charges, run in charges and account fees as I have written before. Price will no longer enter in to the equation.
I am fully aware that this suggestion is an anathema for London private hire operators and for different reasons most London taxi drivers will be against my proposal as well. But both Addison Lee and Uber have broken this market. Unless something is done very soon there is no doubt that there will only be one player in town – Uber.
Big challenges need big answers. The rule book needs re-writing. Doing nothing if you want to stay in either the London taxi trade or the London private hire trade is simply not an option.
— Tom London Cabbie (@cabbie_tom) May 3, 2016
The benefits to Londoners will be huge. There will be no price confusion. Same journey, similar price, taxi or minicab. There will be fewer accidents. A higher standard of driving due to minicab drivers being tested by IAM which London taxi drivers can elect to be tested by if they wish. No more breakdowns in communication due to London minicab drivers language skills. Price differences, accidents and confrontation due to poor routes will also be reduced by a London minicab knowledge test.
The benefits to London taxi and minicab drivers will be significant too. Less minicab drivers and little difference in price between taxis and minicabs will mean a seismic shift back to London taxis improving the earnings of London taxi drivers.
The private hire operators business models will change to become more like the best parts of Uber. Rates payable by each passenger will be transparent and private hire operators will have to compete for drivers based on work volume and quality, commission and service to the driver. If Addison Lee were to get this right they could even have a head start on Uber. They have the structure and talent. They just need to have the right people in place who understand the business and cut the fat.
So how will this new utopian world of fair fares for all, higher standards, increased income for many and reduction in accidents be achieved? Simple. By you. All London taxi and minicab drivers standing shoulder to shoulder against the enemy. But who is the enemy? Addison Lee? No. They’re just a private hire operator trying to change and failing miserably. Uber? No. They’re just the catalyst. If they didn’t own the market now it would have been another with similar vision. TfL? Many would say yes. I don’t. Right, I think you’re with me now. Yes. Correct. It is the government. They are responsible for immigration and primary legislation and until they have to listen to one, and one only, powerful voice representing both London taxi and private hire drivers they will not listen. My solution for that will be below after I write a little about Addison Lee’s CEO Andy Boland.
Numbers Never Lie appears to be in full swing over at the media group WPP who won control of Cordiant Communications recently.
Active Value threatened legal action against Cordiant directors over the way the sale process had been handled.
“The game is not over,” warned Julian Treger, joint managing director of the Active Value fund. Brian Myerson, his fellow joint managing director, said his fund management group had been angered by what it perceives as an unfair sale process which it claims saw a cosy deal arranged by WPP, Cordiant and the company’s financial advisers, UBS.
Active Value achieved a modest victory by successfully voting Cordiant’s executive director Andy Boland – Addison Lee’s CEO – off the board.
No doubt many Addison Lee drivers won’t feel so guilty if Carlyle kicks him out of Addison Lee too. Andy Boland was demoted from the board at Cordiant but remains in his executive post and is still in line for a large payout after having his contract changed in June.
As I wrote above the government are responsible for immigration and primary legislation and until they have to listen to one, and one only, powerful voice representing both London taxi and private hire drivers they will not listen. There are simply too many trade bodies!
Many will be surprised to learn based on my support of free markets previously that my family has strong early socialist routes. Both my great grandfathers on my mother’s side differed on how socialism was to be achieved or organised and they did not agree on the role of private property.
Great grandfather Hook was chased out of Stroud, Gloucestershire for “preaching” socialism early last century. I still remember the small house I visited as a child which he moved to at Wooburn Green in Buckinghamshire.
Great grandfather Walker became a farm labourer at the age of 12 and later became General Secretary of the Agricultural Workers Union. A union he dedicated his life to because of the poverty he had experienced first hand working as a child. He later became president of the TUC in 1922. My mother still has the TUC bell awarded to him at the 1922 Trades Union Congress.
My point is, poverty is now rearing its ugly head in the London taxi and private hire trades. After nearly 100 years, now globalisation and weak government are bigger threats to stability and living standards in the United Kingdom than ever before. If the majority of London private hire drivers and London taxi drivers do not join together under one powerful unionised voice then the game is up. For you and your families. Retrain. Now. Or you could fight? Fight for your rights. As a London taxi driver. As a London minicab driver. Together. One voice. One union.
The London taxi and private hire industry is at a turning point. There will never be a better opportunity to come together. And fight together. You waste it at your peril. With the focussed voice of one union, the GMB Pro Drivers, you will get the government’s attention. Daily blockades throughout London by both London taxi drivers and London minicab drivers standing shoulder to shoulder will attract more media coverage in one day than all the other protests put together. There is no doubt that an organised campaign backed by the GMB will get the enemy’s attention. But never lose sight of who has caused this. Who is the enemy? It is the government. On both sides of the House at different times. Why did they do cause this? Through immigration and lack of political will for new primary legislation. That’s a whole other topic. But I think most readers will know the answer.
Doing nothing is not an option if you want to stay either side of the fence.
London taxi drivers and London minicab drivers can join here.
The ideals of interdependence, mutual prosperity, and social solidarity in which everyone is treated with equal worth and dignity really are worth fighting for to bring a new dawn to London’s taxi and private hire trades. We need each other NOW!
No joining of minds then economic injustice for London minicab drivers will continue and London taxi driver earning will also go in to freefall. The corporate scandals of Enron and WorldCom will pale in to insignificance against Uber, the mergers and acquisitions that destroy the dreams and hopes of many in one fell swoop like at Andy Boland’s Cordiant, the housing bubble created by government and banking collusion that put many hard working people out on the streets, and many other corrupt and selfish economic practices continue to evoke outcries of immorality and injustice. So the time has come to step up to the plate. That means you!
Ultimately, let’s get a regulatory system built for the regulated by the regulated with checks and balances by the people who know and are seconded from both industries. It ain’t rocket science. And TfL should be replaced by the new regulator due to new government primary legislation. It’s a big task. But the alternative of maintaining the status quo is unthinkable.
Finally, the view that Numbers Never Lie may also be flawed if you look at the number of drivers that protested at Carlyle’s office in Berkeley Square. There is far wider discontent amongst drivers than the number of Addison Lee drivers who attended the protest would suggest. The next protest will be much larger and I wish them luck, God speed and a fair wind.
I am not a current member of any union and have never been a member of the GMB. This article has not been discussed with any member of the GMB. References to the GMB and my suggestions may or may not be carried through and they simply represent my personal opinion on the best action to take for London minicab and London taxi drivers to protect their living standards.
I was once a member of NALGO but I can’t write about it or I’d have to kill you. 🙂