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Uber wins back licence in Brighton

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Uber wins back licence in Brighton 11th December 2018

Uber has won back its operating licence in Brighton after successfully overturning a decision earlier this year to refuse it an operating licence.

According to local reports, Brighton and Hove City Council argued that the app’s use of out of area drivers undermined the city’s ability to enforce its local rules, which include mandatory CCTV and a minimum number of wheelchair accessible vehicles.

However, Uber’s barrister argued that it was not in the court’s power to dismiss the appeal on those grounds.

District Judge Tessa Szagun said: “I cannot concede to the plea to “sympathy” put forward on behalf of Brighton and Hove City Council. I am bound by the legal framework and authorities as clearly and comprehensively set out above.

“Any changes to this are a matter for parliament.

“The law is equally clear in respect of the exercise of discretion in attaching conditions to licences. Stewart v Perth and Kinross DC 2004 in which it was held to be unlawful to impose conditions on a car dealer to regulate the terms of their trade. ‘…discretion is not unlimited. The authority is not at liberty to use it for an ulterior object, however desirable that object may seem to be in the public interest’.

“This is precisely what I am being invited to do and which the case law expressly prohibits.”

Chair of the licensing panel, Councillor Jackie O’Quinn, said: “We’re very disappointed in the court ruling against our decision not to renew Uber Britannia Ltd’s (UBL) Private Hire Operator Licence.

“When making licensing decisions, our priority is the safety of residents and visitors, and that’s why we set a high level of conditions. All Brighton and Hove private hire and Hackney Carriage drivers in the city operate under the same licences and guidelines contained in the Blue Book and undergo the same background checks, whichever company they drive for.

“Part of our decision not to renew was due to concerns that UBL had not kept to the spirit of the commitment it made to keep to our standards and only use Brighton and Hove licensed drivers. The court felt that Uber met the requirements under national legislation.

“UBL’s operating model is a challenge to local licensing conditions and the current licensing regulations. We have raised concerns that the legislation has not kept pace with the changing nature of the licensed trade with central government.”

An Uber spokesman said: "We are pleased to see the district judge in Brighton come to the same conclusion as the 30 other councils that have granted or renewed Uber's licence since September 2017, namely that Uber is a fit and proper operator.

"We are proud of the progress we have made and we want to continue to be a partner to the cities we serve."

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