The Mayor of London has the power to make Uber pay more taxes and the city's iconic black cab drivers should reduce night time fares to compete, according to a new report calling for a major shake up of London's cab industry.
A maximum working day of 12 hours should be imposed on Uber drivers and all black cab drivers should take fares via an app, recommends the report from Policy Exchange's Capital City Foundation think tank.
It adds fuel to the fire in the increasingly acrimonious battle between Uber and London's taxi trade and piles more pressure on Sadiq Khan to regulate London's roads, amid legal battles and a review by City Hall.
Uber's five-year license to operate in the capital is up for renewal in May next year and the think tank claims the mayor can impose requirements on limiting driver days and paying taxes.
The report also slammed aggressive lobbying by "an ultra-conservative minority" of black cab drivers for blocking progress and damaging their reputation among potential users.
It comes as cabbies with the London Cab Drivers Club staged a protest in central London today.
“London risks losing yet another thing which makes it different, special, and civilised: the world’s best taxis," said Nick Ferrari, author of the report and a host on LBC radio. "But to survive, cabbies must change. They need to out-compete Uber, not just demand that someone else makes the competition go away."
Andrew Gilligan, head of the Capital City Foundation, said: "The rise of Uber and other ride-sharing services has brought both benefits and costs. But the costs, such as congestion, are felt by more people than the benefits.
“We must tackle those costs, and Uber’s principal unfair advantage, of paying less than the normal UK tax: a completely indefensible position, given its total dependence on roads provided by the UK taxpayer. It has chosen to pay more tax last year than it did before, but the payment of tax should not be a matter of corporate choice.”
The latest accounts for Uber show it paid £411,000 in tax last year as turnover doubled to £23.3m and profit came in at £1.8m. The startup has been criticised for the complicated way it structures its business, with parts of its UK business reporting profits in other countries, though it abides by tax laws.
The report claims Uber's "fair share" of tax would amount to £8m. Uber says it still operates at a loss globally.
An Uber spokesperson said: “We believe there’s room for both Uber and black cabs on London’s roads. That’s why we have offered black taxi drivers the chance to get extra fares through our app with zero commission for a year. However, it’s disappointing that many of this report’s claims about Uber are wrong or simply based on a trawl of the internet.”