Uber has been successful in appealing Brighton City Council’s decision to refuse to renew its operating licence.

Uber’s operating licence in the city was refused after the council’s Licensing Committee refused the application citing ‘significant concerns’ about the company’s data breach and Uber’s lack of commitment to use only Brighton and Hove licensed drivers in the city.

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 area is 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.”

Responding to the news, Councillor Jackie O’Quinn, chair of Brighton and Hove City Council’s licensing panel, 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 & 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 & 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.”

Stephen McCaffrey

Regulatory Barrister specialising in taxi and private hire licensing law.

Head of Taxi Defence Barristers and Taxi Defence Scotland.

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